For this very first post, I will introduce myself and my first topic.
So for my first episode, I will be doing a bit of an intro and tying it to my first topic: education in America today. It can be a dicey topic. Some think it’s changing for the better. Others would argue it’s becoming harmful to student relationships and analysis of the world. Some would go as far as to say it foments a new from of segregation and blatant propaganda. I was shocked to see news reports of parents accusing schools of ‘indoctrinating’ their children. As luck would have it, I work in the field of education. Because of this, the debate has certainly drawn my attention. I’d like to start by showing how I got to the point of writing a Substack when I should be writing lesson plans...
My story begins in the little town of Perris, California. If you haven’t heard of it, I wouldn’t blame you. There’s not much in the town I spent a whopping twenty years living in, but I can report they recently added a Wendy’s and Panda Express. From high school, I did a stint at the local community colleges, Moreno Valley College and Riverside City College respectively. Mind you there was a gap between my time there when I actually owed the school money and blew off school for warehouse work. I eventually returned to community college and swore off warehouse work, but little did I know I’d be back in a warehouse several more times in my life. That, however, is a story for another time.
Next, I transferred to the University of California Riverside to be a CPA. I majored in history administrative studies which is history and business kind of mashed together. I was taking in-depth history courses. Simultaneously, I also took business courses like business information and accounting. It was not until the end of my time at UCR in summer of 2018 that panic set in. I had always wrestled with a good paying career prospect and doing what I loved. I originally settled on the former. I got decent grades in accounting although it was definitely a struggle. The real problem was that I didn't feel any energy from it. That’s not to knock accountants who really enjoy it and yes make a pretty chunk of change. On top of all that, it’s just generally lucrative to actually understand how the tax system works.
Alas, it was not for me. I preferred reading literature as opposed to tax documents, whether it be reading fiction or nonfiction. History struck a chord with me because of how it opened a window into the past. That and it allowed one to see the present in a new light. I found this fascinating. Around 2015, this apolitical reader/writer was suddenly drawn into politics and economics as well. So, what was I to do?
After much internal deliberation, I switched gears to teaching. Right after my UCR graduation in 2018, I applied to the University of Redlands’ graduate level education program. After a hunt for recommendation letters and many other trials, I was accepted. It was the happiest moment of my life at the time. This was short lived as I navigated the demand of grad school while working forty to sixty hours a week at, you guessed it, a warehouse. From January of 2019 up until my graduation last year in December 2020, I learned the ins and outs of Education. As you have probably surmised, I have not been in the education field very long. Nonetheless, through teacher interviews and observations, piles of academic reading, substitute teaching, and finally my first dive into a new district and a new setting , I have experienced much in a small space of time. I currently teach in the Coachella Valley.
With all this in mind, let’s talk about what's going on in education in the modern day. Before I ever took on the task of teaching a classroom full of children, I was interviewing teachers as part of my grad courses and was also observing teachers in the classroom. This was not limited to just my field, history, but also English, Math, and science (admittedly never sat in on a P.E. or arts course). With history, probably more than any other school subject, there’s a series of daunting questions that must be confronted. Namely, how do you actually talk about tough subjects? How do you teach kids the important dates, names, and events while also giving them a chance to express their opinions? How do you balance nuance and keep your own personal opinion out of the lessons you plan? All vexing questions any good history teacher considers. These are all things I want to explore.
To kick off this deep dive, I would like to examine the idea of bias in schools. This is something I’ve wrestled with for a long time. My curiosity was reignited by recent videos of hollering parents at PTA meetings where critical race theory is decried on one side and defended on the other. This is not a new debate. It simply goes by a different name. You may recall the age-old talking point that there is a liberal bias education. Now what does this mean exactly? Conservatives will tell you that when kids go into the education system, regardless of the education level, educators are there to distill liberal propaganda ranging from hating America, a hyper focus on race, and grooming anti-patriotism. A black father recently went viral for decrying critical race theory, claiming it’s a new form of segregation. Flaming this on is a series of segments on FOX news and other conservative outlets where this talking point is becoming a rallying cry.
In my next episode, I will tackle the idea of bias in school. Especially in “Commufornia” where I went to school all my life. What was it really like? And more importantly, what are some of the real solutions to the debate between preserving traditional curriculum and the addition of critical race theory?