Legislation aimed at preventing students – including high school and college students – from being exposed to certain ideas about race and American history will be discussed this week at the Statehouse.
The first thing to know about these bills is that they aren’t original or unique to Indiana. They are part of a coordinated national campaign against so-called critical race theory, with similar versions having been filed or passed in dozens of states. The language is copied from an executive order by former President Donald Trump and from “model bills” promulgated by right-wing advocacy groups.
The second thing to know is that they are, at best, a solution in search of a problem. The folks pushing them seem to think Hoosier teachers are woke activists pushing a leftist agenda centered on identity politics. They aren’t. Teachers are like everyone else: some are liberal, some are conservative – some are very conservative – and many don’t care about politics.
We remember the canonical years from our American history classes: 1492. 1776. 1861-65. It’s past time to add 1619 to the list. I just read the 1619 Project book, and I’m convinced.
It was in August 1619 that Jamestown, Virginia, colonists bought 20 to 30 enslaved Africans from English pirates. “They were among the more than 12.5 million Africans who would be kidnapped from their homes and brought in chains across the Atlantic Ocean in the largest forced migration in human history until the Second World War,” writes Nikole Hannah-Jones in the book’s introductory essay.
Arguably no event had a more pivotal and long-lasting impact on the United States. As the 1619 Project makes clear, chattel slavery and the accompanying doctrine of white supremacy shaped American history and American attitudes, and they continue to do so today.
“The story of Black Americans cannot be disentangled from the story of America, and our attempts to do so have forced us to tell ourselves a tale full of absences, evasions and lies,” writes Hannah-Jones, the project’s creator and lead author.
Look for Indiana legislators to spend their 2022 session trying to mandate partisan school board elections and restrict political discussions in the classroom. They may also want to ban transgender athletes from competing in school sports and demand disclosure of teachers’ lesson plans.
That’s my conclusion from reviewing issues surveys posted online by House Republicans. While the surveys are ostensibly to get constituent input, they also let lawmakers field-test ideas for legislation.
About half of the 71 House Republicans have posted their surveys. Using identical, canned language, they ask about vaccine mandates, tax cuts and other topics, but K-12 education seems to dominate. For example, a large majority ask if constituents would support “greater election transparency” by requiring school board candidates to declare their political party affiliation.