An Open Letter to Chuck Hockema

Dear Mr. Hockema,

Congratulations on this week’s election victory, and welcome to the board of the Lafayette School Corporation. Although you don’t know me and I don’t know you, I commend your desire to support public education in our community. I firmly believe that our schools are some of our most important cultural institutions, and I can only assume that you share that conviction.

In the days since your election victory, you have been unapologetically vocal about your agenda as an incoming board member. As a teacher and the parent of four LSC students, I appreciate your honesty. It’s helpful to know what you stand for and how you plan to fulfill your new role.

That being said, I am one of many educators, parents, and community members who has serious concerns with the posture you have taken. I’m not the only one to find your comments inflammatory, uninformed, and in many cases, downright hurtful. Perhaps you wear that criticism as a badge of honor; at the very least, you seem perfectly comfortable with the prospect of stirring up controversy. But since you have been so open with the community in voicing your opinions, I would like to honor that sincerity by responding in kind. I do so in good faith, assuming that you are a reasonable man who is willing to listen, learn, and adjust your course of action when necessary.

As a high school English teacher, I appreciate a good case of irony. Although irony can manifest itself in many forms, we often encounter it in instances of surprising contradiction. In literature, ironic characters are usually ignorant of their own situation: a vegan who works at a butcher shop or a dentist who constantly gets cavities. But irony isn’t confined to novels and stories. The same irony that gives flavor to our favorite fiction also seasons real life scenarios, too—such as when a school board member with an anti-indoctrination platform is thoroughly entangled in the very indoctrination he claims to oppose.

Mr. Hockema, I’m willing to take you at your word that you want to see ideology kept away from public education. And believe it or not, I agree with you. I agree that our schools should be places where children are educated and given the tools to exercise free thought, honest inquiry, and critical reasoning. I agree that our classrooms should never be used to force one person’s doctrine, creed, or conviction upon another.

But isn’t it a little bit ironic that someone who wants to keep ideology out of public education is so adamant about infusing it with his own?

Based on what you’ve shared recently with local reporters, you seem like a man of conviction. I respect that. It takes courage to believe in something strongly enough to take a public stand. In your case, the convictions at the core of your identity seem to revolve around traditional social values. Perhaps these arise from your own life experiences; perhaps they arise from a more essential commitment such as your religious faith. Whatever the case, you clearly know what you stand for, and I commend you for that clarity.

But now that you have earned a seat on the school board, you have become a part of something much larger than yourself. Your new role is not a personal soapbox; it’s a position of public service. The individuals who have been elected to this office—including you—have been placed there to pursue the good of our entire community in all of its complex and beautiful diversity. This is no place place for ideological crusades. This is no place for someone with an ax to grind.

Mr. Hockema, you have every right to believe what you believe. But whether you’re on the school board or not, you have absolutely no right to impose those beliefs upon others. Are you prepared to embrace those limitations? Are you prepared to serve from a posture of sacrifice and inclusivity? Are you prepared to set aside your personal agenda in order to advocate for every single student within our district?

Education without indoctrination isn’t about protecting the idyllic 1950s traditional values you happen to be partial to. It means flushing out close-mindedness. It means confronting hate and bigotry. It means guarding against any enforced ideology, including the ideologies that say white voices are the only ones worth listening to, gay kids have something to hide, and students should be able to learn like robots without any consideration to their social and emotional needs.

As I’ve read your post-election remarks, I can’t help but hear the voice of someone who is fundamentally afraid—afraid of a world that has changed drastically during his lifetime, and afraid of a reality that he no longer understands.

I get it. Change is scary. I’ve had to adapt to change in my own life, and I can attest to the difficulty of having to adjust my own expectations and evolve as a human being. The classrooms in 2022 are different from the ones you graduated from in 1959, and I imagine that might be hard for you to accept. But as a society, we’ve been learning and growing in many positive ways during those years, and perhaps the changes that have taken place in our schools are the result of that. Perhaps many of those changes are for the best.

You may not understand why teachers would use a student’s preferred pronouns in class. You may not understand why they would challenge a historical narrative that marginalizes people of color. But here’s a little piece of inside information as someone who is lucky enough to work alongside many of them every single day: They do it because they love the children they’ve been called to teach.

That’s it. That’s the secret ingredient. Love. And if there’s one thing that never changes, it’s that the way of love is always better than the way of fear.

If you want to score political points with a small, disgruntled slice of the population, then go do it somewhere else. There’s too much at stake in our schools to be playing those games.

But if you truly want to make our school corporation the best institution it can be, then I invite you to leave your paranoia and censorship at the door, and instead to step into your new role on the LSC school board with only one motivation and only one agenda: love for the students you will be serving.

This isn’t about you. This is about them. Do your part to help them thrive. Do your part to help them succeed. Do your part to cultivate classrooms in which they belong, in which they feel safe, and in which they can become the free thinkers they were born to be.

In other words, love them.

That’s why I’m here. I hope that’s why you’re here, too.


Drew Humphrey

P.S. The views expressed in this letter are purely my own and do not necessarily represent those of any school or other employee within LSC.

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5 responses to “An Open Letter to Chuck Hockema”

  1. Kudos to you. I applaud you calling out this individual in clear and certain language. Your message is unmistakable. Please know you and your colleagues have my and my husband’s support.
    Diana Hoke,
    Retired J.H.S. English teacher and Librarian


  2. Good luck. You just put yourself on his hit list. I hope Mr. Hockema gets used to hearing the phrase “the motion carries/is denied 6-1.”


  3. I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve written here Mr. Humphrey. Personal agendas do not and have never belonged in elected offices. Mr. Hockema, you were voted on to the school board to work for the common good of our students. If you’ve ever spent any significant time in a classroom with today’s students to cement your agenda, I’d say you might have a leg to stand on, but I suspect you have not (and I apologize in advance if I am wrong on that assumption). Ignorance truly is bliss and often leads to fear of anyone who thinks differently than you. Our world is full of too many painful and heinous examples of this- we don’t have to look far to find them. Finding them however involves opening up your mind to look at all sides of a situation, not just the side you stand on. I might suggest that you step back and honestly TRY to do that if you have not done so already. It might be difficult, but I have every bit of faith that you are capable of doing that. Good luck!


  4. I feel compelled to respond to Mr. Ho kema’s plans as a board member. I know Mr. Hockey and he is a good and kind man. He, like so many others are falling for the Reactio are ideals concerning PUBLI C education. First, I am sick to death of hearing.the word “woke”! The welfare of our children is of the utmost importance. I have heard, read, or watched absolutely nothing proving that LGBT teachers are in any way “grooming” anyone too become gay. I have seen nothing to prove any of these so called sexual mistreatment by teachers. Show me hard evidence and I will make it my business to see them prosecuted. Sex edu action is the private business of the child ,parents, and physicians. I agree that items in a school library should be age appropriate a nd under close supervision by the Librarian….I’d there is a problem…address it. I won’t even start on the CRT, again, it was started to create havoc. All I will say at this time is that our children need to know of past mistakes so they are not repeated. No one, at any level of government has the right to censor what we watch, read, or listen to.


  5. As an LSC parent, I’d like to thank you. Our schools are not perfect, and they never will be, but I’m proud to send my kids to school in a district where I know they’ll get the love and support they need.


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