Why I Stopped Teaching
For fifteen years, Kali Fontanilla taught middle and high school students in California public schools. Then she abruptly left it behind. Why would a teacher who loves teaching quit her job? Her answer should alarm us all.
Question: Why would a teacher who loves teaching quit her job?
Answer: When her job is no longer about teaching.
For fifteen years, I taught ESL (English as a Second Language) to middle and high school students. The last five years were at public schools in Salinas, California.
Salinas has suffered for a long time with a gang problem. Students are just as likely to fall victim to the temptations of gang life as they are to graduate from high school.
If that sounds like a challenge, it was exactly the challenge I was looking for.
It's why I became an educator: to help put kids, especially teenagers, on a good path in life.
And that's what I tried to do.
I taught my students that if they worked hard and accepted responsibility for their actions, they would succeed.
That their race didn't define them.
That they should respect the police.
That there are only two sexes.
That communism leads to misery.
But in the last few years, they were hearing something different in their other classes.
That their race was their destiny.
That the police were out to get them.
That their sexual identity is a personal choice.
That socialism is compassionate, communism isn't so bad, and capitalism is cruel.
Many of my students, especially the ones who had recently come to America, rejected these depressing lessons. They knew what they had fled. They wanted to embrace their new country and its values.
But other students completely bought into it.
I needed to know why.
So, I dove into the school's "ethnic studies" curriculum, the source of so many toxic ideas.
I found classroom activities such as a "privilege quiz" where students would compare and contrast their gender, race, class, and sexual orientation with those of their classmates.
I found another exercise which involved conducting a mock trial to "charge various persons implicated in…genocide against Native Californians," in order to "create a social justice…counter-narrative."
None of this should be surprising because the "guiding principle" of the curriculum was to "critique…white supremacy, racism, anti-blackness…patriarchy…capitalism…and other forms of power and oppression…"
And in case you think this is just one school, passing an ethnic studies class will soon be mandatory for high school graduation throughout the state of California.
And it doesn't stop at students.
Teachers who reject these radical ideas—especially teachers with the "wrong" skin color—risk being labeled racist or white supremacist, putting their jobs and careers on the line.
In June 2020, I addressed the Salinas school board. I told them that "allowing…[Critical Race Theory] and [Black Lives Matter] indoctrination in the classroom is unbalanced, too political, and will only do…harm…"
In response, the board president, a professor of ethnic studies at a local college, called me "anti-people of color."
I am "people of color." I'm half Jamaican.
In fact, before the board meeting, the district had sent me a gift just for being black: a mask bearing the message, "Black Educators Matter," an "I Love Being Black" sticker, and an African greeting that "acknowledged the god in me."
An obsession with race and gender has taken root in our educational system. It's the weed that's rapidly overtaking the garden.
What can we do to get rid of it?
First, advocate for academic transparency.
Demand that your school district's lessons and materials be made accessible online, so you can see what your child is being taught. That may not protect you from an individual woke teacher, principal, or school board, but it will make them all think twice before adding radical material into the curriculum.
Second, be vocal. Express your concerns.
Pay attention. If you come across lessons you don't like, make your dissatisfaction known. Let the teacher know, let the principal know, and if necessary, let the school board know. Speaking of school boards, consider getting on one yourself. This is the time for action.
Third, take an active role in your child's education.
Don't send your kids to public school and expect everything to turn out fine. Supplement their studies with lessons that counter the indoctrination they might be getting in school. Look into other options such as private or charter schools that share your values. Or, if you can do it, homeschool. It's easier than you think.
I will always be an educator. I don't think there's a more important job. My goals as a teacher are the same as they were fifteen years ago. It's the goals of the public educational system that have changed.
That's why I can no longer be part of it.
I'm Kali Fontanilla, founder of Exodus Institute, for Prager University.