Opinion: “How Comfortable Am I” questionnaire misses the mark

Opinion: “How Comfortable Am I” questionnaire misses the mark

Opinion: “How Comfortable Am I” questionnaire misses the mark

How comfortable am I? When it comes to our schools, not very. Our public education system is in crisis. Teaching positions go unfilled. Funding is down. Districts are failing to teach our children there are consequences to their actions — or inactions — by not grading homework. Hard work is no longer rewarded because it might make someone else feel bad about themselves. If that isn’t bad enough, you don’t have to look hard to find examples on an almost daily basis of how our schools are trying to indoctrinate our children. The “How Comfortable Am I” questionnaire is a prime example.

Last year, a Florida middle school teacher lost her job after having her students answer the “How Comfortable Am I?” questionnaire. But that wasn’t the end of it. Last week, the questionnaire reared its ugly head again, this time in the Birdville (TX) ISD.

Reading the questions, there can be no doubt the questions were inappropriate. First, the questions are framed in such a way they were obviously meant for older students. Second, the questions are too broad. Take this question,” A group of young Black men are walking toward you on the street. “ The answer will vary depending on the situation and it has nothing to do with the race of the young men. It depends on the location, the time of day, how the young men are acting, how they are dressed, whether “you” are alone or with others, how many other people might be around.

This question, “A homeless man approaches you and asks for change,” is another example of how too little information is given. Each of us know context matters and in this question, as in all the others on the list, context is missing. There is no way for the students, or anyone else for that matter, to give an informed response. Why? Because that’s not what the questionnaire is after. It is designed in such a way that your first knee-jerk response is the one to be discussed because it will reveal who you “really” are. The problem is that, as adults, we will (more than likely) have experience to draw on before answering. That’s something those 12 year-olds won’t have.

If you look at the questions, the implied prejudice in them is obvious. Sure, we’re told the questions are phrased the way they are to facilitate discussions about race and racism, and about prejudice in general. What they actually do is tell students they have the wrong social outlook if they don’t answer the questions in a certain way.

Rick Hunter, parent of one of the Florida students, saw nothing wrong with the questionnaire. “I think the school could do it a lot better than we could. It’d be a lot more comfortable. It’s weird talking to your kids about this.” It might be weird, but it is a conversation we, as parents, must have with our kids. More than that, we need to ask ourselves why we think it is appropriate for our schools to give questionnaires obviously aimed at older students, perhaps even adults, to our children. Why should we abdicate our role as parents to the schools?

I applaud the school districts for taking action in both cases. I cheer those parents who stepped forward to express their concerns over the way the questions were phrased. I wonder why these teachers felt it appropriate to have their answer the questionnaire in the first place. But most of all, I wonder when we will finally demand our school districts return to what used to be called “the basics”: reading, writing and arithmetic. We have one generation already that has, at best, a mediocre education if they came up through the public school system. So, when someone asks how comfortable am I with regard to our school system, I find myself wanting to ask these questions: How much longer are we going to sit back and allow our children to fall further behind the other so-called advanced nations when it comes to education, especially in the sciences?

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1 Comment
  • Timmy says:

    They just want to shame us.

    The question about the woman on a plane.

    Ca. 15 years ago…
    I was on a flight to a job interview, and a tall 6’2″ fat woman was in the seat next to me. Parts of her rolled up and touched my hand on the arm rest.

    She apologized and asked to be reseated.

    If that happened today she would have cried rape or #metoo and I’d be in jail.

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