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Democracy

The idea they're 'indoctrinating' is false': GOP candidate stands up for teachers at debate

"They’re working in low-paying jobs, and they’re fighting for those kids and their families.”

doug burgum, gop debate, culture wars

Governor Doug Burgum of North Dakota

Over the past few years, there's been a concern among some conservatives that specific topics, such as LGBTQ awareness and critical race theory, are too prevalent in classrooms. These concerns have inspired various legislative actions, such as book bans and restrictions on discussing LGBTQ topics in schools.

Unfortunately, this debate has also resulted in a hostile work environment for some teachers and administrators, and clashes at school board meetings have been commonplace. In extreme situations, educators have been accused of grooming children into becoming LGBTQ.

Critics of the conservative scorched-earth approach to education believe that it’s nothing more than a manufactured moral panic used by politicians to garner support on issues that hit close to home for parents. A disturbing aspect of the education backlash is that it often targets teachers who already have a tough job.



North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum stood up to GOP rank-and-file at the presidential debate on Wednesday, August 23, by claiming that the idea that teachers are indoctrinating children across the nation is “false.” For many, it was a welcome course correction from the Republican narrative.

A moderator asked Burgum if too much is being made about the issue of transgender children playing sports in schools, and he used the question to discuss the topic of indoctrination.

“But I do think when we start talking about education—and we think that we’re going to have a federal government one size fits all—we’re just completely losing track of the fact that education differs by state. Some school districts are doing a fantastic job, some less so,” Burgum said.

“But the idea that every school district and every teacher is somehow indoctrinating people is just false,” he continued. “Teachers in this country, the vast majority of them care about those kids. They’re working in low-paying jobs, and they’re fighting for those kids and their families.”

Burgum also reframed the argument from social issues to what’s most important, children being taught the fundamentals in schools.

“There’s a lot of crazy woke things happening in schools, but we’ve got to get these kids reading. If a child can’t read by third grade, they’re four times less likely to graduate high school. So we need to make sure we bring in reading remediation all over this country,” Burgum said.

“We need transparency in the classroom because parents should never have to wonder what’s being said or taught to their children in the classroom,” she continued. “Parents need to be deciding which schools their kids go to because they know best, and let’s put vocational classes back into the high schools. Let’s teach our kids to build things again.”

It’s crucial for parents to have a voice in what’s happening in the classroom. But when politicians turn the focus in education from teaching kids the fundamentals to a hyper-focus on the culture war, that’s when the system is bound to fail. Burgum did a commendable job in the debate, reframing the discussion from the culture wars to what matters most: children learning about the three Rs and supporting their teachers.

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