David Horowitz's code of ethics would muzzle teachers

tags: education, David Horowitz

Jonathan Zimmerman teaches education and history at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author (with Emily Robertson) of  The Case for Contention: Teaching Controversial Issues in American Schools (University of Chicago Press, April). jlzimm@aol.com. Thumbnail Image -  By Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0

He’s back!

I speak of conservative provocateur David Horowitz, who pressed state legislatures in the early 2000s to adopt an “Academic Bill of Rights” requiring college professors to present a range of political opinions in class.

Now Horowitz has trained his sights on public school teachers, but with an added twist: They shouldn’t be allowed to express any opinions at all. And that speaks volumes about the low status of our teachers, whom many Americans simply don’t regard as real professionals.

Witness Horowitz’s recently released “Code of Ethics for K-12 Educators,” which would bar teachers from taking “any side of a controversial issue” while they’re on the job. If state legislatures or school boards adopt the code, as Horowitz hopes, teachers won’t be able to “endorse, support, or oppose” a political candidate, proposed law, or court decision in school.

Let’s be clear: Some teachers do try to impose their own viewpoints on students, instead of letting kids make up their own minds. And that’s a violation of the public trust. But Horowitz — and, I’m afraid, many other citizens — don’t trust teachers to abide by it. So the only solution is to muzzle our teachers, restricting their speech to dull pieties about the glorious virtues of America.

Alas, there’s a not-so-glorious American tradition of doing exactly that. Writing in 1856, the educator and children’s author Jacob Abbott insisted that teachers “could lead students only to accept, not to question, the existing order.” Teachers are hired to follow “the will of their employer,” Abbott added, so they had “no right to wander away from that purpose.” ...

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