Republicans are like the Energizer Bunny when it comes to the culture wars.

They keep going and going and going.

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Take the war on how to educate children on history and the humanities.

Republicans in the Arizona State Legislature are considering SB1412, a measure that has already passed the Senate, that would penalize teachers if they present lessons that conclude blame is warranted on individuals or groups that have committed bad acts in subjects like history based on their race or ethnicity.

Translation: If the teacher presents lessons that conclude white people committed bad acts in history.

The penalty for instructors could be as severe as revocation of their teacher license.

Public schools (traditional and charter) could receive a $5,000 fine per incident.

This is not the Republicans first try at this Orwellian Apple.

In the last session, they passed a similar measure under the guise of banning critical race theory within the K-12 budget

Fortunately, that portion of the bill did not survive court scrutiny.

There have also been past attempts to sanitize the teaching of history and literature from the nation’s uglier episodes that have largely failed.

That has not stopped Republicans from trying to pass a similar measure again.

If this measure becomes law, teaching historical topics like slavery, the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, the war against Native Americans, and the Civil Rights Movement would be like offering a Swiss Cheese curriculum, making it virtually impossible to conduct lessons  on a thorough and accurate basis.

Literature choices would become increasingly limited as well. School libraries would have to excise works like To Kill a Mockingbird, Oliver Twist, and Up from Slavery.

Which is undoubtedly what the authors of this legislation want?

Pro education activists in Arizona have voiced their concerns at what Republicans are trying to do.

Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Aaron Lieberman wrote:

“Educators are not the enemy. Censoring and punishing teachers who we trust to safeguard our kids every day is not the answer. Our state already pays our teachers less than anywhere else in the country and, because of that, 2,000 Arizona classrooms went without a full-time teacher this year. This gag bill will only make that shortage worse.”  

Beth Lewis of Save Our Schools Arizona commented:

“Arizona teachers are more than qualified to guide and instruct students through critical analysis of  historical events, literature, the arts, and more. They should never suffer threat of punishment for doing their jobs- but SB1412 does just that. We need to foster a classroom environment that lets our teachers do what they do best – teach.” 

Rebecca Gau of Stand for Children Arizona relayed:

“This bill will censor our teachers and jeopardize the AP course designation for thousands of students. Legislators should focus on what’s important to an overwhelming majority of Arizonans- solving our education funding crisis, not making kids and teachers targets for political gain.

 SB 1412 is legislative overreach that will put required topics and critical thinking exercises covered in AP classes into question. Not only will this put those courses at risk of being decertified, but also, legislation like this will further decrease the quality of education in Arizona”

Scottsdale School Board Candidate Mary Gaudio offered her views, stating:

“The “Strike Everything” language of SB1412 states that the bill, “Does not prevent a teacher from identifying and discussing historical movements, ideologies, or instances of racial hatred or discrimination including, but not limited to, slavery, Indian removal, the holocaust, or Japanese-American internment.”

That sounds reasonable. That is, until you read the bill in its entirety. It also states, “A teacher, administrator, or other employee of a school district, charter school or state agency who is involved with students and teachers in… pre-K, or K-12…  may not use public monies for instruction that promotes or advocates for any form of blame or judgment on the basis of race or ethnicity or sex.”

How does a teacher provide a lesson on slavery without a full accounting of the atrocities inflicted on men, women, and children of color at the hands of white slave owners? How could they avoid casting blame or judgment when the facts are indisputable that black people were deemed an inferior race and subjected to forced labor, rape, torture, stolen culture, families ripped apart, etc.? Would those facts be taught with no empathy or compassion, as teachers could be penalized for making their white students feel uncomfortable?

I am currently reading the book, “Reading, Writing, and Racism” by Bree Picower.  In it, the author cites an example of a worksheet given to 8th graders in San Antonio, Texas titled “Slavery: A Balanced View.” Students were expected to list examples of both negative and positive aspects of slavery. I fear this bill will lead to instruction such as this, propagating the idea that atrocities in our history can be so casually debated. I can only imagine the emotional anguish that students of color would experience in completing such assignments.

This bill will only exacerbate the crisis-level teacher shortage in our state. Who would want to teach in an environment that threatens their ability to engage with their students in an honest, accurate manner? Once the state imposes fines against teachers, threatens to revoke a teacher’s certificate, or brings lawsuits against schools, it’s a slippery slope to state censorship of all speech.

Our teachers should not be subjected to harassment and intimidation by the state. Our schools should not be subjected to lawsuits for teaching a full, honest account of events. Our students, especially, should not be subjected to assignments that teach the “good and bad” aspects of atrocities that have occurred in American history. I hope you’ll join me in screaming from the rooftops how dangerous this bill is.”

Part of a good well rounded education is having a well rounded and thorough humanities curriculum which helps mold character, instills an inclusive and Democratic spirit of citizenry, and conveys an accurate accounting of how national and international historical events transpired. .

The historical events that are uncomfortable should not be hidden from children. It is reality and they need to be exposed to them at age appropriate levels.

Republicans in the Arizona State Legislature, in a move to appease their mostly white and historically/scientifically ignorant base, are against promoting reality and a well rounded education in the classroom.

People like that should not be in charge of shaping education policy and voters need to let them know that in November, 2022.

 

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