Lift every voice – and say no to crackpot legislation

State Sen. Vaneta Becker of Evansville is usually one of the more sensible Republicans at the Indiana Statehouse. It’s surprising that she’s the author of one of the first truly awful education bills of the 2012 legislative session: a proposal to put government restrictions on the singing of the national anthem at school events.

Becker’s Senate Bill 122 would require the Indiana Department of Education to develop standards for what is “acceptable” in the performance of the anthem. State-funded schools, colleges and universities would have to enter contracts with anyone who sings the anthem at a public, school-sponsored event. Schools would be required to record the performances and maintain the recordings for two years. Singers who deviate from appropriate words and music could be fined $25.

Apparently many folks have strong feelings about the right and wrong ways to sing the English drinking song that became the melody of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” But regardless of what you think of a little melisma with your bombs bursting in air, it should go without saying that Indiana schools and the Department of Education have better things to worry about. Remember, this is the same state legislature that last year insisted on relieving schools from “burdensome” rules and regulations in locally negotiated teachers’ union contracts.

Bill-filing for the 2012 session, which starts this week and ends in March, has just begun, yet several questionable education measures have already been introduced.

SB 89 would allow school boards to require the teaching of “creation science.” See Karen Francisco’s Learning Curve blog at the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette for a good report on this measure.

SB 83 mandates the teaching of cursive writing as part of the school curriculum.

SB 84 would eliminate multi-class state basketball tournaments.

There will be serious education issues to debate in this session – more on that soon. But let’s hope lawmakers give these four bills the cold shoulder they deserve.

Meanwhile, a New Year’s gift for Sen. Becker: Colorado-based jazz singer Rene Marie’s lovely, daring and inspirational version of the anthem our nation should aspire to.

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