Political groups continue to use schools as theaters for grievance in an effort to gain voters. Maine is not immune from this national disgrace.

Though they may fall short in votes, they are succeeding in destroying the already struggling teaching profession and eroding the civic fabric of local communities. This is a serious challenge to Maine’s citizens; communities should not leave solutions to teachers or school boards. Community leaders need to get ahead of this issue before it inflicts more damage to our teachers and consequently our students.

Demonstrators gather on the steps of the Florida Historic Capitol Museum in front of the Florida State Capitol, Monday, March 7, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. Florida House Republicans advanced a bill, dubbed by opponents as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, to forbid discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, rejecting criticism from Democrats who said the proposal demonizes LGBTQ people. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Last June, this newspaper reported on how highly researched trigger terms like “critical race theory” and “grooming” served as a weapon in schools across the state (“National culture wars come to Maine school districts,” June 5). A subsequent article in The New Yorker traced the money and influence of partisan groups eager to shape a morality curriculum in public schools. There are cases where non-compliant teachers are being forced from their jobs.

“CRT” and “grooming” won elections for people like Gov. Glenn Youngkin in Virginia. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis used these terms to serve his role as a modern-day Grand Inquisitor. Comedian Jason Selvig’s interviews with ordinary citizens about CRT demonstrate just how susceptible people are to getting riled up about something they do not understand.

The insanity did not end with the elections. Since the June 2022 report, cases involving parents and school boards fostering hysterics about grooming and more have taken place around the state. The damage to teacher morale continues unabated. Too many citizens without teaching experience are filled with passionate intensity fueled by fear. In politics, what begins in fear usually ends in failure. Just how much damage will occur in the meantime?

The world is changing rapidly and the community response requires reflection, not repression.


Anxious parents fail to understand the complexity of the education profession. As the saying goes, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Most teachers realize this task and work hard to find ways to incentivize discussion and critical thinking in their classrooms. Many outside the profession think of students as pails.

Anyone can fill a pail but only a true educator can light an intellectual fire. As our society becomes more automated, the future of learning will need to focus on critical thinking and sound judgment. Teaching professionals aspire to do just that in a system that is not always supportive of the approach. Recent trends that overemphasize accountability and standardized tests fail to encourage critical thinking. Efforts to expand experience-based learning are plodding along, at best.

Children are inundated with online portals into virtual worlds. It is understandable that parents are anxious with regard to this uncontrollable pace of change. Anxiety can be a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained. Fearful and unreflective people can be led to regrettable actions. Efforts to impose censorship in schools is not a solution but a weapon brandished along with the facile war cries against a changing world.

There are better solutions.

One group working with the University of Southern Maine, Maine Education 2050, collaborates with the MIT Media Lab to record community-based conversations about the future of education in Maine.

As part of these conversations, community members share thoughts and provide ideas on how education can light a fire for learning in students. Changing an antiquated education system to prepare students for a future most of us cannot imagine is not easy. Nonetheless, thoughtful people are willing to work together to find them. These community conversations with educators should be encouraged by philanthropy and the Maine’s Department of Education.

We cannot let fearmongers demean the work of our dedicated teachers. They are the artisans of humanity and need to be celebrated.

Maine should welcome the opportunity to lead in this effort.

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