Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s push for recording lessons is misplaced – it would be better to tackle the lobby groups that are driving absurd, divisive and dangerous policies into our schools.
Teaching is a job like no other. We are teachers but we are also counsellors and mediators; we develop programmes and resources, and we solve problems. Strategy, tactics and manoeuvres fill our days – we are generals in our classrooms. We know when to exercise tact and diplomacy, and when we need to be blunt and forthright. If we didn’t when we started out, then we learned fast. And now Tucker Carlson wants us to be movie stars as well.
Last week, the Fox News host called for cameras in every classroom.
Carlson is bothered about “civilization-ending poison” being spread in schools. “It’s everywhere”, he said, before adding, “How widespread is it? We can’t be sure until we finally get cameras in the classroom.”
It’s true that there are ideas being propagated in society that should worry parents everywhere. In the UK, for example, programmes such as No Outsiders have pushed the message that children have a gender identity, and need to find it before they can know if they are a boy or a girl. The BBC at one point suggested that there were over a hundred of these gender identities so that would be a non-trivial task.
However, those ideas also worry teachers like me. Maybe Carlson should be talking to us rather than calling for the authorities to spy on us? Besides, what would those cameras actually see?
The reality in my lab – I am a science teacher – is a world away from any political indoctrination class. Teaching and learning happen in a room of real people with real issues, many of which are brought straight into the lesson.
As the class file in, two dozen – or more – children come with their minds already buzzing. I try and guess from their demeanour the nature of their previous lessons. My first task is to settle them and focus their minds. But they are not some collective, like the Midwich Cuckoos, they are all individuals. Some may have fallen out with friends earlier in the day, others may have made up after last week’s squabbles. Who can tell? I need to know because I need to pitch my lesson close to the sweet spot or we may all waste our time.
My subject is physics: forces and motion, light and sound, electricity and magnetism. Dataloggers that need to be programmed correctly, ray boxes that need no more than 12 Volts, and electrical circuits that may or may not work for a myriad of reasons. I need to be in a dozen places at the same time to teach, guide and coach. Carlson’s cameras would observe multitasking in time as well as space as I find 30 seconds to check that the resources for the next lesson have arrived and are ready for use. And who is going to watch all this to see that I do not start preaching from the gospel of gender ideology in the ten seconds that I do have spare? They might catch me glancing at my emails to check that no urgent messages have appeared, which need immediate attention.
This is the reality for me, and tens of thousands like me across the world every school day. If the spying eyes have enough time to watch the millions of hours of footage that would be created every day, then they have the time to be useful in the classroom as an extra pair of hands.
But I don’t think Carlson is interested in my ability to teach one lesson while mentally planning the next; he wants to know when I swap instruction with indoctrination. That doesn’t happen, but what would happen is a distraction. In physics, we teach that the observer can affect the results of an experiment simply by observing it. In teaching, I know that any observer does the same for a lesson. The very presence of a camera would upset everything. The focus would shift from what we are doing to ‘what are they watching?’
Carlson’s time would be better spent having a good look at the lobby groups that are driving absurd, divisive and dangerous policies into our schools. Carlson’s rant concerns what he calls the “anti-white mania” of critical race theory, but that is just one aspect of identity politics. As a teacher in the UK, I worry more about Stonewall UK, Mermaids and other seemingly respectable organisations pushing transgender ideology, or what we might call critical gender theory. This not only divides people into “communities”, it plants the idea in children’s heads that if they do not like their sex then they can change it.
Nobody can change sex; we all know that really, but transgender ideology is pervasive and persuasive, especially when antagonists are framed as transphobic bigots. I know that from personal experience; I might be transgender, but those pushing the ideology demand compliance from me as much as anyone else.
Both theories appear to promote the idea that discrimination arises from subtle institutional dynamics rather that the explicit prejudices of individuals: society is institutionally racist and transphobic, and we are all to blame. That is poison, in my view, so I find myself agreeing with Carlson.
I also concur with his call to judge people by what they do rather than the basis of their skin colour – and, by extension – who they are. While we might all be members of society, we are also individuals. Shakespeare may have written, “to be or not to be, that is the question”, but where the law is concerned, “to do or not to do” is more appropriate.
As teachers we know these things. We know our students are all individuals, we know they come into our classrooms with a myriad of baggage, and we know that our job is to teach them well. That means developing their ability to think for themselves so they can flourish as individuals in adult life.
If Carlson wants to see that going on, maybe he could train as a teacher and join us in the classroom, changing lives and influencing the future? Tomorrow’s leaders, judges, doctors, engineers, scientists, writers and poets are in our classrooms. But if he wants an easier way of changing society, then he needs to deal with ideologues and leave teachers alone. We have enough to do.
Debbie Hayton is a high school teacher and trade union officer. She teaches science to 11-18-year-olds at a school in central England. As a transgender person, she has written extensively about what it means to be trans and how trans people can be included in society without compromising the rights of other vulnerable groups. Her work can be read in publications from across the political spectrum, where rational scientific debate is allowed and encouraged. Follow her on Twitter @DebbieHayton
* This article was first published by RT.com on 12 July 2021: As a teacher, I believe calls to put cameras in classrooms are wrong. But it’s right to worry about the dangers of indoctrination.