Letters to the Editor

When schools become political battlegrounds | Federal Way letters

I wanted to respond to Chris McCrummen’s Sept. 25 rebuttal against Mark Knapp’s editorial on teaching U.S. history (Sept. 18). But first, I wanted to thank McCrummen for taking the tough job of public school teacher and also acknowledge both parties’ right to speak publicly about what goes on in our schools.

McCrummen states: “I teach my students to look at historical events from various viewpoints. Is it not important to teach students how to think critically?” The answer, of course, is a resounding yes! McCrummen claims to teach a college-type history course where students study contrasting primary material and make up their own minds. Who wouldn’t want their kids to learn to think independently? However, the remarks fall short of the very standard McCrummen espouses, telling Knapp, for example: “In this day and age of violence in schools, your ad must be banned.” What kind of critical thinking simply bans opposing ideas? McCrummen equates exposing students to different ideas about gun rights with “forcing ideology on people.”

To be fair, I haven’t seen the ad in question, and it's possible I too would find it objectionable for some reason. But McCrummen seems alarmed because it allegedly depicts an AK-47, as if a mere photo of a military weapon is going trigger violence. I suspect McCrummen's real objection is that non-students (like Knapp) with conservative political agendas are trying to influence what is taught in schools. And I suspect Knapp is merely trying to counter the liberal influence wielded by the (non-student) education establishment.

The sad fact is that our schools are political battlegrounds. When partisans advocate "critical thinking" or "open-mindedness," they rarely walk their own talk.

Doug King, Federal Way

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