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The C-3PO Teacher
Fix the schools by making robot teachers, or teachers, robots
To kick things off, let’s get my thesis for making our classrooms more harmonious places out of the way…no teacher, under any circumstances, should discuss their private lives with their students, ever. But before diving into my rationale for this position, let’s talk Star Wars, and specifically C-3PO.
We first meet C-3PO on board a ship that sends him and R2-D2 off into space with a distress call meant for Princess Leia. However, he crashes into Tatooine, is found by Jawas, and is later purchased by Luke Skywalker to do chores around his Aunt and Uncle’s farm. I’ll assume you know the gist of the story from there. However, we learn that C-3PO was built for a different purpose.
C-3PO was built not as a labor droid but as a droid who was, according to the Star Wars wiki, “designed to interact with organics [humans], programmed primarily for etiquette and protocol. He was fluent in over six million forms of communication“. In other words, he was only brought into existence to teach and help guide his owner. This seems like the ideal model for a teacher…a person (or android) whose decisions are based on appropriately communicating the information their student needs. Now, let’s examine the teachers we have.
Let me start by saying that I believe most teachers mean well and are trying to do their best for their students. However, we have many examples of teachers and school boards who have become politically motivated under the guise of “inclusion.” This includes teachers of young students sharing aspects of their life that should be limited to discussions with their parents only.
The Twitter account “Libs of Tictok” and researcher Chris Rufo have extensively documented, from both public social media posts and whistleblower documentation, very sensitive and some outright false, politically driven narratives that teachers have been encouraged to or actually have conveyed to their students, particularly in regards to their sexual identity and who fifth graders are physically attracted to.
My point here isn’t to relitigate the various discussions on this topic but to point out that many parents do not want these discussions to occur in the classroom, and those that do want their children to learn about these things, are free to do so in their homes.
The outcry has led several states to take action on this topic, most notably in Florida, where they have passed the Parental Rights in Education bill, which many liberal talking heads have derisively called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Aside from the fact the bill never uses those words or even implies teachers can’t “say gay,” the official name is a more suitable description of what the bill represents. Here is the overview of the bill:
Requires district school boards to adopt procedures that comport with certain provisions of law for notifying student's parent of specified information; requires such procedures to reinforce fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding upbringing & control of their children; prohibits school district from adopting procedures or student support forms that prohibit school district personnel from notifying parent about specified information or that encourage student to withhold from parent such information; prohibits school district personnel from discouraging or prohibiting parental notification & involvement in critical decisions affecting student's mental, emotional, or physical well-being; prohibits classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels (emphasis added); requires school districts to notify parents of healthcare services; authorizes parent to bring action against school district to obtain declaratory judgment; provides for additional award of injunctive relief, damages, & reasonable attorney fees & court costs to certain parents.
As we can see, the bill enshrines parents’ rights to be informed as to what their children’s school curriculum is, what parents must be proactively informed about (such as healthcare services), and indeed, limits on what and when certain discussions can happen in classrooms. It seems to me that there are two root causes of our current situation. The first is that school boards assign what many parents perceive as inappropriate cirriculm. The second is that some activist teachers are over-stepping their bounds into areas parents do not want them to venture into, including discussing intimate details of their personal lives. The above legislation and others like it start to address the cause, but what to do about the second?
This leads me to core questions we need to be answered, namely, what does that add to the education of the students, and, more fundamentally, what is the basis of the relationship between teacher and student?
The “three r’s” trope (reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic) is blase for a reason…it’s why parents have always sent their children to school. They want them to learn the essential skills they’ll need to function in the world as adults. Teachers are simply the conduit for that knowledge. Now, you need bills like the Florida bill because with 3.5 million teachers in the US as of 2018 and approximately 60 million school-age children in 2020, there are 3.5 million teachers in the US as of 2018 and about 60 million school-age children in 2020 there are far too many variations in beliefs. It is a virtual certainty that conflict will arise. So how do you account for these variations…the short answer is that you don’t. Therefore, the relationship between teacher and student needs to be a purely transactional one…teachers come to school to teach the curriculum, and students come to school to learn it. What do the teachers’ personal lives do with delivering on the school’s core value proposition? It doesn’t. A teacher’s students are neither their friends nor their therapists.
Therefore I propose a straightforward rule for all classrooms in America, which can be summed up in one paragraph:
No teacher, under any circumstance, is allowed to discuss any aspect of their private lives with their students or proactively bring up any topics which would lead to these discussions. This includes any issue regarding their families, vacations, personal plans, etc. Further, they are not allowed to have any personal items in the classroom which display any aspect of their personal lives, such as family photos, letters, etc. If students ask questions about their private lives, they must respond that they are not allowed to discuss that topic and should speak with their parents about it.
Done…end of discussion. There is simply no reason why teachers need to bring any aspect of their private lives into the classroom. Suppose they need to have more serious discussions about issues occurring in their lives. In that case, most schools have administrators who are not directly responsible for teaching students, such as guidance counselors and nurses, who can have those discussions with them. This alleviates the temptation to cross the established boundaries.
Some argue that bringing those aspects of their lives is critical to their students' learning. I am highly suspect of this. In fact, there is a new study out of the University of Chicago about a pilot program in Kenya where a fully standardized educational program from Bridge International Academies shoots this concept down. Bridge created a standardized curriculum delivered to teachers via a tablet computer and a standardized teacher evaluation program that ensured it was strictly followed. This program was used to educate 100,000 students across 400 private schools, and the results were nothing short of astounding. From the findings:
Enrolling at Bridge for two years increased test scores by 0.89 additional equivalent years of schooling (EYS) for primary school pupils and by 1.48 EYS for pre-primary pupils. These effects are in the 99th percentile of effects found for at-scale programs studied in a recent survey. Enrolling at Bridge reduced both dispersion in test scores and grade repetition.
This is what we should be moving towards both for quality of education but also to negate the now often adversarial relationship between parents and teachers based on moral differences.
In other words, the best path to returning harmony to the classroom is to get more teachers to take on the personality of C3PO.