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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Boyd: Indiana Senate education bill tries to mask true intent

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Back in the day NBC had “Must See TV” — the Thursday night lineup of shows that one couldn’t miss. If you did, you would be left out of the watercooler conversation at work the next day.

Well, the Indiana General Assembly is bringing “Must See TV” back. No, it’s technically not TV and it may not seem as fun, but when I tell you it is good, it is good. Committee hearings are happening now. Visit iga.in.gov to see which committees are meeting and then watch the hearing unfold.

I recently had the pleasure of watching the Senate Education and Career Development Committee as they held a hearing on Senate Bill 167: Education Matters. The bill, authored by Sens. Scott Baldwin, Jeff Raatz and Travis Holdman and co-authored by Sens. Linda Rogers and John Crane, “requires each qualified school to post educational activities and curricular materials on the school’s Internet web site.” Asking schools to be more transparent seems innocuous enough until you get to the real point of the bill: stopping discussions of race, gender identity and sexuality in the classroom.

The language in the bill continues, “Provides that a state agency, state educational institution, school corporation, or qualified school acting in an official capacity may not include or promote certain concepts as part of a course on instruction or in a curriculum or direct or otherwise compel a school employee or student to adhere to certain tenets relating to the individual’s sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin or political affiliation. … may not require an employee of the school corporation, qualified school, or state educational institution to engage in training, orientation, or therapy that presents any form of racial or sex stereotyping or blame on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.”

Obviously, there’s more language in the bill, but some of the public comments focused on diversity, equity and inclusion education otherwise known as critical race theory (CRT) — even though it’s not.

Anyone who’s watched events of the last year transpire knew a bill that would somehow ban critical race theory would make it to the Statehouse. White parents have voiced their displeasure at their students being made to “feel guilty about events of the past” at school board meetings.

At this point, people don’t care whether they’re really talking about CRT. Any lessons about race, diversity, equity, inclusion and social emotional learning are all lumped into CRT. And what I learned watching the hearing (which I already knew, so it’s more confirmation) is some white parents don’t want their children feeling uncomfortable.

Moms from Center Grove and Noblesville both provided testimony about how the lessons their children learned made them uncomfortable. One mom said her children were told they should be allies. The other mom said she believed racism existed but it’s individuals not systems, and her problem also is that discussions about racism are brought up over and over and over.

Let me remind you that Center Grove Community School Corp. is the school district where a student-athlete recently wore blackface to make fun of another student-athlete from a competing school. Maybe this was a one-off situation, but I was left wondering after I listened to this parent. The cognitive dissonance was evident. She mentioned several times about ideas and philosophies that don’t align with her family’s standard. That standard seemed to be to ignore racism.

I keep coming back to the point that the comfort level of Black students doesn’t matter. Neither of those moms really cared about how Black students felt or how their comments seemed racist. These moms believe they’re protecting their children. Protecting them from what? Discussing issues that help them grow into self-actualized, caring and empathetic adults. Learning to discuss hard topics helps students grow into better humans. School is a great place to learn about the world — and how to make it better. At least that was my experience. The lack of these discussions is why we’re debating this in 2022. It’s why there’s not critical thought when people hear CRT.

Too bad so many want to remain stuck. It’s seriously time we move forward and not backward.

Visit iga.in.gov to stay current with the current session of the Indiana General Assembly.

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