Submitted by Dana Francks
Almost a decade ago, my husband and I relocated from Manhattan to Greenwich, just like so many other young families looking to start a life where we would raise our children in one of the most sought-after public-school systems in the country. I was six months pregnant with my first child. My husband’s company had an office in Greenwich, so it was a no-brainer. We settled right in, renovated our home, made wonderful friends, and life was good—great even. Fast forward to 2023 and we can’t get out of here fast enough.
It started with the continued, long-term masking of our little children. It killed me to send my young children to school every day with their smiles covered and voices muffled. I knew in my heart it wasn’t right and that the cloth masks couldn’t stop a microscopic virus from spreading. I did what I could as a mother to try and protect my children from the nonsensical rules around the school mask mandate because I saw how much it was harming them. I spoke at Board of Education meetings, I rallied other parents, I contacted administrators and state representatives regularly and was even interviewed on Connecticut Public Television and cable TV news. When the masks were finally made optional after 18 long months of school, it would have been a complete relief, except by then we had become aware of another problem — the relentless indoctrination of students in our schools.
Greenwich middle school English class has inserted a student survey about race, in which 12-year-olds are taught to feel “responsible” and blamed for others’ lives who are less fortunate than them based solely on their skin color (rather than emphasizing compassion and humanity of all). This survey and analogous teachings wrongly and unfairly stigmatize Caucasian children, victimizes children of color, and divides peers by how light or dark their skin happens to be. No child’s self-esteem is boosted by stigma or victimhood. How does this make mixed race children feel? Shouldn’t the goal be to build every child’s self-worth by teaching them how to be kind to their friends and neighbors, working hard to reach their goals, and acting with integrity?
Teaching factual history is of the utmost importance but placing blame on the students themselves for what was done in the past is unjust. My great-grandparents fled from Austria, Russia, and Ukraine to escape from the pogroms where Jewish people were massacred right before the reign of the Nazis. The plight of my ancestors doesn’t cause me to place blame on Russian or German people I meet today and it shouldn’t.
We should all learn from history and not repeat the mistakes of our ancestors, but in my opinion, placing blame on children for historical systemic racism is wrong. I am a firm believer that all children should look past the immutable characteristics of their peers, respect each other, and most importantly, revere and appreciate each other’s differing opinions. Diversity is a wonderful thing. Diversity of thought is a necessity. Students in Connecticut middle schools, high schools and colleges are being silenced, judged, and even graded unfairly for having a difference of opinion. In our schools “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think” as Margaret Mead said in her famous quote.
There is a substantial amount of time allotted to the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Program in school. I do believe that the origins of SEL were likely well-meaning, appropriate, and helpful. Unfortunately, over the years SEL has warped into a transformative platform which allows teachers to insert their own personal political agendas into their lessons without consistency or proper vetting of materials. Even with Greenwich Public School’s new curriculum vetting process in place, teachers don’t submit all materials through this process, leaving room for poor judgement. It is my opinion that controversial, political topics should be left out of the classroom. Many topics do merit discussion in older grades, but they must be approached in a balanced manner with open discussion and debate allowing them to express their point of view without fear of repercussions.
Parts of society are no longer rooted in reality. Rather, they are creating new social constructs daily, and treating them as facts. The National Education Association (NEA) has a list of preferred pronouns on their website including “Ze,” “Zim” and reflective pronouns, “Zirself,” “Zay,” or “Zee.” Trans-Age is now a thing. Where does it stop?
We are moving from Connecticut where Greenwich Sex-Ed now includes an unlimited number of genders and clearly inappropriate pornographic books are accepted and even applauded for being showcased in the children’s section at the library (but when you read the passages aloud at a Board of Education meeting, you are told to stop reading because it’s inappropriate). Connecticut state legislators are proposing laws to block parents from finding out about private communications between their children and their children’s teachers. What parent on the planet would agree to that law?
With all the impractical extremes being exposed in this world I do have hope that the pendulum will swing back to a place of common sense and reason. Unfortunately, it can’t happen fast enough for my children to leave the Northeast unscathed if we do not relocate.
Society needs balance and that balance is gone in many towns across our country and sadly even in Greenwich. Other parents I speak with disagree with the provocative topics in school but are afraid to speak up and with good reason. Parents are afraid of retaliation against their children and fear repercussions at their schools and in their careers and communities.
Moving away from our home where we thought we would live for the rest of our lives, comes with great sacrifice, mixed emotions, but with zero doubt. Our kids will always come first.
If our children grow up disagreeing with our opinions, as long as they came to their conclusions using their own minds and not as a result of systematic brainwashing, we will have done our job.