No sex, no social justice: 2021 legislative pressures on public education
Updated 02/24 / 2021– Indiana’s bill to make it a criminal offense for teachers or librarians to allow students to read material deemed “obscene” (see NCAC’s thoughts on the complexity of determining whether ‘a book important enough to be attributed to the school may be considered obscene) has died in the Indiana Senate. The sponsor of the bill, however, has pledged to present it again next year. The drafters of the bill expressed concern about children facing explicit material, but released the specific books that inspired the bill.
Update 02/17/2021– Some of the bills introduced in state legislatures that seek to censor classroom teachers have seen significant developments, both positive and negative. Our original article explaining these invoices is below.
Some of the bills were withdrawn or defeated in committee. These bills include a North Dakota bill that sought to prevent the teaching of gender expression; a Mississippi bill that sought to prevent the teaching of Project 1619; and two South Dakota bills that sought to limit the teaching of social justice.
However, bills in Minnesota and Indiana that seek to criminalize schools for exposing students to allegedly “obscene” works have found additional co-sponsors, even though works that have sufficient merit to be awarded in class cannot be “obscene”. “An Arkansas bill (HB 1231) that would ban the teaching of Project 1619 also got additional sponsors, as did another Arkansas bill (HB1218) that would eliminate the teaching of justice. social.
Most worrying is that two bills in Iowa have been approved by the relevant subcommittees. A bill, SF167, would limit the teaching of gender identity. The other bill, HF222, would reduce funding for any school that teaches Project 1619.
The NCAC believes that decisions about curriculum should be made by educators, not politicians. SF167 is currently before the Iowa Senate Education Committee, whose members are listed here. HF222 is before the House Education Committee. The members of this committee are listed here.
Contact details for Minnesota, Indiana, and Arkansas invoices that raised additional co-sponsors are as follows:
Minnesota HF232 is before House Education Policy Committee
Indiana SB288 is before Senate Committee on Education and Career Development
Arkansas HB1231 and HB1218 are both in front of the House Education Committee
Originally posted 02/16 / 2021– As state legislatures convene for the 2021 session, a series of laws have been introduced across the country that aim to exert control over classroom education. The bills focus on two major themes: sexuality (an area lawmakers have long sought to control) and social justice and the new perspectives it offers for understanding both the present and history. A bill goes so far as to encourage parents to withdraw their children completely from public school if they do not agree with the program.
The most common target of these censorship attempts is Project 1619, a program based on a series of New York Times articles which, in his own words, “aim to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the national narrative of the United States.” Bills have been introduced in five states to ban schools from teaching this program.
Although some historians have contested the bill, these bills are driven by political, not historiographical, concerns. These are blatant and illegitimate attempts to silence perspectives with which the proponents of the bills disagree. The two identical bills tabled in Arkansas and Mississippi complain that Project 1619 constitutes a “militant movement” that claims “that America was not founded on the ideals of the Declaration but rather on slavery and oppression” and that it was founded on the ideals of the Declaration. ‘is a “narrative of revisionist history and racial division that threatens the integrity of the Union by denying the true principles on which it was founded.” Two other bills, identical to each other but introduced in different states, seek to prohibit the teaching of anything that “promotes division, resentment or social justice for one race, one sex, one political affiliation, social class; or a particular category of people. While a state legislature can legitimately attempt to reduce divisions among groups of people, it cannot legitimately prohibit the promotion of “social justice” or any other critique of current social and political structures. By including a ban on teaching anything about social justice, these laws would likely violate First Amendment law by wrongly seeking to “prescribe what must be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion.” . (The Supreme Court decision of 1943 in West Virginia v. Barnette set this long-standing precedent that prohibits schools to impose unanimity of opinion on any subject.)
The same is true of several bills (in Florida, Minnesota and Iowa) which seek to criminalize the fact that a school assigns books containing material deemed “obscene” or “harmful to minors”. Teachers who do so could face criminal prosecution. As CNAC rated in 2019 when a similar bill has been introduced (and ultimately rejected) in Maine, this type of bill makes no sense: by definition, a work that has serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value does not is neither obscene nor “harmful to children” and educational the materials are chosen precisely because they have serious literary, artistic or scientific value. Therefore, the real motive for such legislation is to intimidate teachers into avoiding material containing references to sexuality, as some lawmakers believe such matters should be kept away from schools. Such laws are indeed likely to foster a frightening culture of fear and self-censorship, making the work of teachers even more difficult and severely limiting the extent of literature and research available to students.
Perhaps the most egregious bill introduced so far this year is New Jersey, which would allow any parent who opposes any learning material or activity they consider harmful to receive a voucher to enroll your child in a private school. The bill defines “an objection to a learning material or activity on the ground that it is harmful” to include “an objection that the material or activity questions, violates or conflicts with the parent’s or guardian’s belief or practice regarding sex, sexuality, orientation, gender identity or expression, conscience, ethics, morals or religion. If this bill is enacted, it would almost guarantee that New Jersey schools will never present material that is not in tune with what the majority of local parents – or even a significant minority – deem “orthodox in politics, nationalism.” , religion or other matters of opinion ”, because if they do, they run the risk of losing the majority of their students. As the NCAC always advocates, such program decisions should be based on educational and pedagogical reasoning, not on the personal views of specific members of the community.
If the past is any guide, most of these bills will ultimately not be passed. Indeed, at least two of them have already died. Still, they will likely be replaced by others, if not this year then the next. Citizens must be alert to the threats posed by such bills and strongly oppose them whenever they are introduced.