A second grade teacher of a friend of my daughter taught her class that Columbus was not a nice man, and explained why. My daughter was not affected by this teaching. However, it brought up the question of what should I do when/if this happens to my daughter? Whether or not Columbus was a nice man, second grade is not the time to teach this and therefore I disagree with the teacher. What should I do should this happen in a class my child is in?

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    Why do you find this inappropriate? Columbus was not a particularly nice man and our history books for generations glorified him as a hero. Why do you find this honesty unacceptable? Second grades students comprehend good from bad.
    – Erin
    Dec 21, 2011 at 3:00
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    I do, however, only when I am please with the answer, and I like to wait a bit to see if there are any other answers, I find on this site some people answer questions up to two weeks after it is posted and I have found once the correct answer is marked no one else answers. @ahsteele Dec 26, 2011 at 19:53

5 Answers 5


Teach your children to think critically about what they are taught

This way it will matter less what they are taught at school. You can present your view at home, and they can make a logical decision on which they accept. Of course this has the downside (if you consider it a downside, I personally do not) that your child will also begin to question what you tell them. But you will not be there forever, and it is much more important that they learn how to interpret and evaluate information for themselves.

  • I like this answer better than the other, because if you just 'solve' the problem with teachers, the child will still get different influences from all other people. If you follow this answer and teach your child that every person has his own opinion, and that that doesn't necessarily mean that that opinion is correct, it'll work for all the people, not just teachers.
    – Konerak
    Jan 2, 2012 at 13:54
  • Really, the teacher should be attempting to refrain from heavy and controversial opinions at this grade-level anyway. Once they are a little older both sides of a controversy that is made from pure opinion should always be presented For example, with my middle schoolers I had them formally debate the pros and cons of allowing further experimentation with genetically modifying foods. Nov 30, 2012 at 4:08
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    ^ The problem with this is that it's sometimes controversial as to what is controversial. e.g. In some parts of America, evolution would be considered a controversial topic, whereas in Europe you would be considered crazy for not believing in it. IMO it is more important that children learn that they shouldn't take everything that they learn at face value, and I see no reason why this shouldn't start from a young age.
    – Nico Burns
    Dec 1, 2012 at 15:02

It sounds like your concern is about a teacher mixing opinion with the teaching material.

If the teacher is presenting an opinion you disagree with, then you can raise the issue with them directly. I would suggest starting off by saying whether or not your agree with their opinion is not the issue, but rather that you are concerned that the opinion expressed is not appropriate for the child's age, and that you would request that the teacher focus instead on the facts and a neutral, unbiased outlook. Using your example, you could point out that they don't need to portray Columbus as a hero, but merely avoid going out of their way to make him look like a villain.

While not quite the same as your scenario, the steps of documentation and escalation described in this blog may be helpful.

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    +1 for a neutral, unbiased outlook of teaching. There should never be teacher opinion involved when presenting new materials to a class. Unless, maybe a child asks the teacher what she/he thought of that particular person. Opinions should always be expressed with a caveat!
    – jlg
    Dec 20, 2011 at 20:08
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    I'm going to Godwin this topic! So, if a teacher says "Hitler was not a nice man" is that bad teaching? Is having and sharing that opinion a sign of poor teaching?
    – DA01
    Dec 20, 2011 at 20:19
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    Also, please don't bother a principal about a teacher who maybe points out that due to Columbus' track record, he doesn't seem like a nice guy. Teachers and Principals have so many more serious issues to contend with every day. This is History, history is very much opinion anyways. The idea of leaning history is to gather viewpoints and data and try to make an understanding of it.
    – DA01
    Dec 20, 2011 at 20:21
  • @DA01 I never said it was "bad teaching". I merely presented strategies for addressing the op's concerns. As for your Godwin example, I think hitler could be adequately characterized by facts.
    – user420
    Dec 20, 2011 at 20:55
  • Well, there you go. It's quite easy to characterize Columbus with facts as well. So at some point, facts will lead to a particular opinion. The opinion is debatable (as is all history) but to expect a teacher to not have opinions on the topic of history is asking for the impossible. I think the first step in resolving this specific concern of the OPs is to understand that history will inevitably be FULL of opinion. The key is having their child understand how to learn (asking lots of questions) rather than trying to dictate a specific curriculum. (IMHO)
    – DA01
    Dec 20, 2011 at 21:26

You can always home school your children. Then you have total control of everything they learn or don't learn. It is honestly your only option to control their education in totality.

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    The 'always' is a little optimistic. Dec 22, 2011 at 14:16
  • I meant it is always a choice - obviously it is a choice that would be accompanied by changing life style and perhaps making some sacrifices. At least in the United States, parents always have that choice available to them when they are unhappy with all other education options. I am not saying it is a great option for everyone, but at least here, and it is my understanding many other places it is an option that is available.
    – Erin
    Dec 26, 2011 at 16:42
  • It is not always a choice. Homeschooling is allowed in no countries I'm aware of, except USA. Dec 26, 2011 at 20:39
  • @TorbenGundtofte-Bruun Homeschooling is actually allowed in quite a few countries it seems, including Denmark and Austria.
    – user420
    Dec 27, 2011 at 13:09
  • Even in countries where it is allowed, it isn't always a choice. It is difficult for say - a single working parent - to have that "choice." Though it is an option for many. :-) Nov 30, 2012 at 4:04

It's fine to disagree with a teacher. And even fine to bring it up with them.

But if you disagree with curriculum and facts, then that's a whole other issue and you have two options:

1) run for school board and try to push your agenda

2) pull your kids out of public school and find a school that adheres to your own belief system


This is a very important and critical topic. It questions the education philosophy. The topic is about the definition of a "teacher". Is the teacher a facilitator helping the students read a book? Or the teacher is an educated thinker providing students with deeper understanding of the world? How much freedom should a teacher has to convey knowledge to the students? Are there other people more qualified than the teacher to control what the teacher says? How do we qualify those people? who qualifies them?

I believe in the parent's right to manage the education of the child. However, I argue that it must be macro-managed rather than micro-managed. This is because the parent may not have the knowledge, expertise, the ability, or the time to define the details of what the child should learn. This task is better be given to the specialists. What a parent can do is determine the broader curriculum and teacher requirements.

The parent has the right to determine the cultural values the child is exposed to. This is achieved by selecting the society to live in, the people to interact with, and certainly the teachers. Once the teacher is accepted, we must give the teacher the freedom to convey his/her knowledge, experience, thoughts to the child. This provides the child with wholesome eduction. The teacher should not be stuttering of fear to say something that may not be acceptable. It is unrealistic to think that we can predefine everything for the teacher to say.

What if the "accepted" teacher's opinion on a specific topic conflicts with the parent, or the school administrator, or some government official? The answer to this questions depends on the culture and the political system. In a free democratic society, the teacher should have the freedom to teach. The teacher's reputation defines his/her market. The parents can compensate for those specifics by exposing the child to other opinions.

What we can enforce on the teacher is not to grade a student based on an opinion. If the student has a logically presented argument, the teacher must accept it. A qualified teacher should know the difference between facts and opinions.

Unfortunately, most current education systems do not allow parents the freedom of selecting teachers. This is what needs to be changed.

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    "A qualified teacher should know the difference between facts and opinions." = on the subject of History, that is not always a clear line. As for letting parents choose teachers, how, exactly, would that work in any practical manner? It barely works at the college level. I can't imagine a public school system having to let every parent choose specific teachers each year.
    – DA01
    Dec 21, 2011 at 7:02
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    +1 for "The parents can compensate for those specifics by exposing the child to other opinions."
    – user420
    Dec 21, 2011 at 13:41
  • At least in theory, democracy and the freedom to teach have literally nothing to do with each other.
    – Weckar E.
    May 8, 2017 at 20:17

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