The Journal Gazette
Friday, January 14, 2022 1:00 am


Teachable moment

Lawmakers' effort to shackle educators driven by insecurities and lack of faith

EDITORIAL BOARD | The Journal Gazette

There's a gag on “The Simpsons” where the condemnatory and moralistic Helen Lovejoy, arms flailing and eyes wide, shrieks: “Won't somebody please think of the children?” She does this because the mayor hasn't been decisive enough about a non-existent, yet somehow existential, bear problem. Later, when people complain about the excessive “bear tax,” the mayor blames immigrants.

It's satire. We wish House Bill 1134 was something we could laugh off.

We can't, as the anti-anti-racism bill – rules that would shackle educators and deprive students – was passed 8-5 by the education committee on Wednesday. It's now headed to the full House, where, if passed, it will then be sent to the Senate. That body has its bill, Senate Bill 167, which shares similar themes and language.

Hoosiers are having to deal with a gaggle of Lovejoys in the House and Senate who want to rid schools of critical race theory, the best cultural straw man argument since sharia law was exploited to herd the flock.

Somehow to talk about racism or teach anti-racism is the same as being a racist. Maybe we should teach the problems of informal fallacies.

The Senate bill was pulled Wednesday night before a committee vote, just a few days after its author, Sen. Scott Baldwin, R-Noblesville, told a teacher during testimony last week that instruction on Nazism should be neutral.

After being pilloried in the national media and by late-night comedians, Baldwin walked back his mistake. His new view: that taking a subject stance of Nazi atrocities is an objectively smart thing to do. We hope this applies to neo-Nazism or white nationalism, too, as extremist groups are growing and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is ramping up efforts to thwart internal terrorism.

If critical race theory is the dog that bays the sheep, the concept of colorblindness actively negates the obvious truth.

It's one thing to hold hearings and discussions on curriculum, particularly at the district level where administrators are held accountable by school board members and the parents who elect them. “It takes a village to raise a child” is a cliched, yet apt, phrase. To force districts to create another rung of bureaucracy is not only unnecessary, it's antithetical to the GOP's less-government philosophy.

However, writing poorly considered and obtuse bills is why Baldwin tripped up and created a cringe-worthy viral moment.

Hastily considered bills are why educators and advocates from around the state participated in hours of debate in both chambers to, yet again, reclaim that as trained and licensed practitioners, their intention is not to indoctrinate but to see their charges develop essential skills to become critical thinkers.

At a time when the state's school districts are trying to fill 600 open teaching positions, all these bills do is tell teachers and administrators they cannot be trusted, as so well put by Tim Conner during the hearing on HB1134.

“We know our community,” said Conner, an experienced educator from Delphi. “We know our kids. We know our school. We work well with the board. We work well with the administrators. So trust us to do the right thing. We won't let you down.”

We trust local experts like Conner not to let us down. Not so much with lawmakers, who have a history of creating onerous education policies and impractical precedents.

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