New Indiana GOP bill allows everyone except teachers to decide what is actual history

As my colleague Laura Clawson wrote about Monday, the “next wave of attacks on public education” will be using the term “transparency.” The trick here is to take away the power of educators and teachers and put what is and is not taught in schools up to a politicized vote. To that end, Indiana’s state Senate (controlled 39 to 11 by the GOP) has introduced Senate Bill 167. Called “Education Matters,” it starts off benignly enough, requiring schools to have an easy-to-access website where “qualified” schools can post “educational activities and curricular materials.” That information is in the first sentence of the bill. From there, things go off the rails pretty fast and pretty harshly, specifically requiring that schools “add functionalist that allows parents of students in the school corporation to opt in to or out of certain educational activities and curricular materials under certain conditions.” It adds a vague, tragically ironic piece about having a committee that makes sure all school activities and curriculum do “not include or promote certain concepts as part of a course of instruction or in a curriculum or direct or otherwise compel a school employee or political affiliation.” Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) President Keith Gambol told WDRB that this is an egregious overstepping by legislators, especially since there are already standards set. "We are wanting to make sure that our educators are able to be honest when presenting information in their classroom. Everything that takes place in our courses is defined by our state standards." The bill was “written” by Republican state Sen. Scott Baldwin, who claims that this bill will prevent “teachers from teaching or promoting eight specific decisive concepts that stereotype people based on race, ethnicity, color, national origin, sex, religion or political affiliation." But let’s be clear. Here’s what Baldwin said during last Wednesday’s Senate committee hearing about this bill: “Marxism, Nazism, fascism … I have no problem with the education system providing instruction on the existence of those ‘isms,’ I believe that we’ve gone too far when we take a position … We need to be impartial.” Good people on both sides. Don’t want to be too harsh on the Nazis—some of your fellow legislators may be sympathetic to them and we wouldn’t want to be “divisive.” Baldwin realized he said the quiet thing out loud during that hearing and emailed the Indianapolis Star that he meant to say he wants teachers to remain “impartial” when it comes to “legitimate political groups.” I’m going to guess that the Black Lives Matter movement is not on that list? “Nazism, Marxism and fascism are a stain on our world history and should be regarded as such, and I failed to adequately articulate that in my comments during the meeting. I believe that kids should learn about these horrible events in history so that we don't experience them again in humanity.” Nazism is a form of fascism and Marxism is an economic theory, not a theory of nationalist control. Whether or not you believe Marxism leads to a form of fascism or not, it isn’t comparable. But let us say it is for argument. This baby food understanding of history is exactly why we want our children to have an education that teaches them critical thinking. We should let educators, not political ideologues, create and execute educational plans. The bill is filled with strange retreads of things that are already covered by concepts like civil rights. However, there’s a reason that these things are written into the bill: (6) That an individual, by virtue of the individual's sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation. (7) That any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual's sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation. (8) That meritocracy or traits such as hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by members of a particular sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation to oppress members of another sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation. If it almost feels like they are trying to codify a certain, very narrow set of fascist, conservative, white-power rules, that’s because they are. Like virtually anything coming from the right wing of the country resembling a “policy” these days, this one is yet another projection of Baldwin and his own political party’s sins. These attempts at trying to quash “divisive” subjects are simply attempts to actually cancel education. The claim that Baldwin and other Republicans are trying to keep “politics” out of our schools by allowing partisan voting committees to sup

New Indiana GOP bill allows everyone except teachers to decide what is actual history

As my colleague Laura Clawson wrote about Monday, the “next wave of attacks on public education” will be using the term “transparency.” The trick here is to take away the power of educators and teachers and put what is and is not taught in schools up to a politicized vote. To that end, Indiana’s state Senate (controlled 39 to 11 by the GOP) has introduced Senate Bill 167. Called “Education Matters,” it starts off benignly enough, requiring schools to have an easy-to-access website where “qualified” schools can post “educational activities and curricular materials.”

That information is in the first sentence of the bill. From there, things go off the rails pretty fast and pretty harshly, specifically requiring that schools “add functionalist that allows parents of students in the school corporation to opt in to or out of certain educational activities and curricular materials under certain conditions.” It adds a vague, tragically ironic piece about having a committee that makes sure all school activities and curriculum do “not include or promote certain concepts as part of a course of instruction or in a curriculum or direct or otherwise compel a school employee or political affiliation.”

Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) President Keith Gambol told WDRB that this is an egregious overstepping by legislators, especially since there are already standards set. "We are wanting to make sure that our educators are able to be honest when presenting information in their classroom. Everything that takes place in our courses is defined by our state standards."

The bill was “written” by Republican state Sen. Scott Baldwin, who claims that this bill will prevent “teachers from teaching or promoting eight specific decisive concepts that stereotype people based on race, ethnicity, color, national origin, sex, religion or political affiliation." But let’s be clear. Here’s what Baldwin said during last Wednesday’s Senate committee hearing about this bill: “Marxism, Nazism, fascism … I have no problem with the education system providing instruction on the existence of those ‘isms,’ I believe that we’ve gone too far when we take a position … We need to be impartial.”

Good people on both sides. Don’t want to be too harsh on the Nazis—some of your fellow legislators may be sympathetic to them and we wouldn’t want to be “divisive.” Baldwin realized he said the quiet thing out loud during that hearing and emailed the Indianapolis Star that he meant to say he wants teachers to remain “impartial” when it comes to “legitimate political groups.” I’m going to guess that the Black Lives Matter movement is not on that list?

“Nazism, Marxism and fascism are a stain on our world history and should be regarded as such, and I failed to adequately articulate that in my comments during the meeting. I believe that kids should learn about these horrible events in history so that we don't experience them again in humanity.”

Nazism is a form of fascism and Marxism is an economic theory, not a theory of nationalist control. Whether or not you believe Marxism leads to a form of fascism or not, it isn’t comparable. But let us say it is for argument. This baby food understanding of history is exactly why we want our children to have an education that teaches them critical thinking. We should let educators, not political ideologues, create and execute educational plans.

The bill is filled with strange retreads of things that are already covered by concepts like civil rights. However, there’s a reason that these things are written into the bill:

  • (6) That an individual, by virtue of the individual's sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.
  • (7) That any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of the individual's sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.
  • (8) That meritocracy or traits such as hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by members of a particular sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation to oppress members of another sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.

If it almost feels like they are trying to codify a certain, very narrow set of fascist, conservative, white-power rules, that’s because they are. Like virtually anything coming from the right wing of the country resembling a “policy” these days, this one is yet another projection of Baldwin and his own political party’s sins. These attempts at trying to quash “divisive” subjects are simply attempts to actually cancel education. The claim that Baldwin and other Republicans are trying to keep “politics” out of our schools by allowing partisan voting committees to supersede educators on what they can and cannot teach is the equivalent of letting voters decide on whether or not the sun is at the center of our solar system.

This comes just a few months after a Texas educator blew the whistle on a school administrator who was looking to see if class syllabuses could use an opposing view of the Holocaust—you know, the Nazi point of view. Indianapolis U.S. history and ethnic studies teacher Matt Bockenfeld told The Washington Post the idea that there’s some magical impartial way to handle certain eras and sections of history is gross. “For example, it’s the second semester of U.S. history, so we’re learning about the rise of fascism and the rise of Nazism right now. And I’m just not neutral on the political ideology of fascism. We condemn it, and we condemn it in full, and I tell my students the purpose, in a democracy, of understanding the traits of fascism ... so that we can recognize it and we can combat it.”

Baldwin is a former police officer and a person who has had to deny he was a member of the far-right group the Oath Keepers. He had to admit to the Indianapolis Star that he made a $30 donation to the group back in 2010 in order to explain his name being on a list of members released to the press all the way back in October.

This bill, this pretend “transparency,” is the poison pill that conservatives have been searching for to kill public education forever. The adage that “reality has a liberal bias” is not simply true. It is the fundamental issue facing the Republican Party in regards to our democracy. They have staked their positions of power with a minority of fascists and must control the story they tell themselves in order to convince their supporters that they aren’t being fascists.