Tuesday, January 20, 2015

NC Gets a Hint

North Carolina used to be a fairly progressive state, at least as far as the South goes, but an aggressively conservative legislature has been busily rolling that back.

Along with attempts to destroy teaching as a career, North Carolina's legislators decided to adopt one of those ALEC-style anti-abortion laws requiring physicians to give every woman contemplating an abortion a canned speech about the fetal development while showing her a live ultrasound of the fetus (this, of course, required her to get this speech while lying half-naked on an examining table).

That law was immediately appealed by physicians, the ACLU, and other thinking people who don't hate women and their dirty, dirty vaginas. The case has been making its way up the legal food chain, and was just decided, again, in favor of keeping the government out of ladies' private parts.

The decision was handed down by Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, a judge conservative to have once been on the short list for the seat occupied by John Roberts.

The language of the decision should be of interest to teachers. Slate had the summary today:

The panel concluded that the “state cannot commandeer the doctor-patient relationship to compel a physician to express its preference to the patient.” And that “transforming the physician into the mouthpiece of the state undermines the trust that is necessary for facilitating healthy doctor-patient relationships and, through them, successful treatment outcomes.” The decision reminded us that the “patient seeks in a physician a medical professional with the capacity for independent medical judgment that professional status implies. The rupture of trust comes with replacing what the doctor’s medical judgment would counsel in a communication with what the state wishes told. It subverts the patient’s expectations when the physician is compelled to deliver a state message bearing little connection to the search for professional services that led the patient to the doctor’s door.”

So the reasoning here is that a trained professional should not be compelled to put the government's judgment ahead of her own. 

I don't mean to suggest that the kind of physical violation and deliberate shaming involved in Norh Carolina's freakish law is on the same order as reformsters requirements of Common Core and testing-- the anti-abortion law is far worse.

But we are talking about the same principles here. The state wants to compel teachers to say, "This is the most important stuff to learn, because the government says so." The state wants to compel teachers and schools to say to students, "You are a loser and a failure, because the state says so." And where teachers are too quietly or cheerfully compliant, parents wonder if they can trust that teacher. Is the teacher looking out for the interests of the child, or expressing the interests of the state? Legislation that compels teachers to withhold their own best judgment and replace it with the judgment of the government is not only corrosive to education, but corrosive to the trust and relationship between school and community, teacher and family.

The judge was not speaking about education, but there is something for education leaders to learn from this ruling.


  1. I think you're right! This bodes well. Maybe we're on the verge of a turnaround in general. : )

  2. Yes! My state says teachers may not "disparage or denigrate the importance or value of the" BS tests. Wish we could get a judge to make a similar ruling for us!