Lt. Governor Mark Robinson (R-NC) proposed a bi-partisan task force to address "indoctrination" in the public schools in his state of North Carolina on Tuesday. The F.A.C.T.S Taskforce (Fairness and Accountability in the Classroom for Teachers and Students) will address equitable school curricula.
In his press conference on March 16, Robinson made it clear that his task force is in no way "an indictment on education." He said the vast majority of schools and teachers work hard every day, and they are there "for the benefit of the students and parents." He explained that the task force was born out of his recent experiences in every "corner of the state" where he found himself being "besieged by folks who were complaining about things their children were having to learn in public schools that were contrary to their own beliefs. We call indoctrination but it could be called many things, it could be called politicizing the classroom...or introducing things into the classroom that don't belong there." He said he received this type of feedback both while he was on the campaign trail and while he has been in office.
Robinson says that there is a need to have a centralized place for feedback, a place the data collected from parents and students can be compiled and disseminated. The task force should be a resource for parents and students "who feel that they are unable to tackle the issues they are facing in their schools," Robinson explained. He added that there are parents, students, and teachers in his state and across the country "who are literally afraid to speak up against school boards, against principals, against administrators—and folks, that has got to stop. School is supposed to be a safe place where people can go for the purpose of instruction and that's what we need to make sure is happening."
During his speech, he cited an example of a student who wanted to do a project on Robinson, who is the state's first African American lieutenant governor but was told to write on Tupac Shakur instead. Robinson wants to ensure that students in North Carolina schools are taught "how to think—not what to think." As stated on the website, the purpose of the Task Force will be:
- To assist in holding local and county-level education officials accountable for what occurs in their schools;
- To provide a safe and secure setting where education professionals can transmit concerns regarding their school without fear of retaliation;
- To provide a central state-wide mechanism for gathering and sharing data related to parent concerns regarding public education, and to provide a mechanism for elevating awareness of concerns so that they can be addressed;
- To provide underrepresented parents and students a voice and an open line of communication with professional educator advocates for student experiences and outcomes;
- To assist concerned parents in navigating the bureaucracy within our public school system.
Suggested examples of submissions would be:
- Examples of discrimination or harassment related to a student’s faith, ethnicity, worldview, or political beliefs;
- Examples of unequal, inconsistent, or disparate treatment of students in the enforcement of school rules and/or in disciplinary matters;
- Examples of students being subjected to indoctrination according to a political agenda or ideology, whether through assigned work, teacher comments, or a hostile classroom environment;
- Examples of students being required to disclose details regarding their individual race/ethnicity, sexual preference, religious ideology, or economic status
- Examples of students being exposed to inappropriate content or subject matter in the classroom, including matters relating to substance abuse, profanity, or of a sexual nature.
According to Robinson, the task force will be comprised of 12 individuals whose party affiliation should be immaterial. Education professionals representing all levels of K-12 including teachers, administrators, and university professors will sit on the advisory board. "This is not about political ideology," Robinson said. "If I go to a classroom and I can't put my opinions aside long enough and show impressionable young minds just the facts without my opinion, I have failed as an educator."
Robinson, the ninth of ten children and a "proud Army veteran," grew up in poverty and was raised by a mother who had only a fifth-grade education. His father was an alcoholic who abused his mother. His mother raised him with the understanding that "with hard work, he could achieve anything."
In February, Robinson spoke to the press about a political cartoon drawn by an eighth-grade social studies teacher that was published in the opinion section of WRAL. The cartoon depicted Republicans as members of the KKK. It was directed at Republican members of the State Board that were allegedly trying to "wipe out from the social studies curriculum the record of racism which includes the Klan and the segregationist practices that were imposed in our state and nation’s history," according to a statement from Seth Effron, Opinion Editor for Capitol Broadcasting Company.
Robinson told the press if this "teacher promoting this at WRAL, what is he doing in his classroom... 'cause by the way, there wasn't anybody in the GOP that promoted the Ku Klux Klan and the ideals thereof." He added that the standards being taught are "divisive" and that cartoons like this "should give us pause to pump the brakes, slow down and revisit this issue."
The Lt. Governor also addressed the contrast in standards with regard to censorship which he sees as problematic in the country. He contrasted the events of Jan. 6, where most people attending "simply wanted their voices to be heard," with the example of the cartoon where "a teacher in a North Carolina middle school [can] draw a drawing like that depicting the first black Lt. Governor as a Ku Klux Klansman. It's something we cannot stand for folks and it's something that I'm not gonna stand for. Free speech, yes. I'm all for it. But when your free speech proves you to be a hypocrite...and a liar, we won't stand silent for it."