Writers’ Advocacy Group Claims American Teachers Work Under a ‘Gag Order’

2024-02-23 07:00:38

The idea that teachers are under a gag order is not accurate or true. The left is just angry that people don’t want teachers to spend their time being classroom advocates for LGBT issues and other hot political topics.

The Fordham Institute reports:

Gag order? Or gag reflex?: State laws on teacher speech

A new report from PEN America claims that 1.3 million teachers, roughly a third of full-time classroom staff in the United States, are now forced to work under “educational gag orders.” PEN tallies forty pieces of legislation restricting teacher speech across twenty-two states as of November 1, 2023. The report warns darkly that political conservatives “have learned from past mistakes and have new and more insidious strategies for silencing America’s educators,” particular shifting their emphasis from bills banning the teaching of critical race theory to “bills that restrict speech about LGBTQ+ topics and identities, including numerous copycats of last year’s HB 1557 in Florida, known to critics as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law.”

First and foremost, it’s important to recognize PEN America for what it is—an advocacy group concerned with protecting writers’ free expression, not an education organization. While its commitment to free speech is commendable in most contexts, PEN’s advocacy doesn’t translate seamlessly to the complex dynamics of K–12 public education, where states and school districts commonly and uncontroversially impose restrictions on teacher speech and conduct in the service of protecting minors, running safe and orderly schools, and advancing academic standards, while being mindful of often complex community sensibilities.

Tendentiously describing restrictions on teacher speech as “educational gag orders” is on par with equally hyperbolic claims about “book bans,” which, needless to say, do not and cannot co-exist with robust First Amendment protections. When bookstores proudly display tables of “banned books” for sale with (thank goodness) no fear of prosecution, it’s self-evident (and vaguely comical) that no such “bans” exist.

More pertinently, restrictions on K–12 teacher speech are not intrinsically intolerable, even to those on the political left. At least one major poll found that when presented with the actual language of the Florida’s much maligned “Don’t Say Gay” law, which prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity from kindergarten through the third grade, even Democrats supported it by a better than two-to-one margin.


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