“Marxism, Nazism, fascism… I believe we’ve gone too far when we take a position. We need to be impartial,” Republican Sen. Scott Baldwin, who co-wrote Indiana Senate Bill 167 said Jan. 5.
Also known as the “Education Matters” bill, SB 167 was introduced in response to debates over teaching critical race theory in schools. It was killed on Jan. 14 by the Indiana Senate. Had it been passed it would have given parents control over what history their kids learn and how they learn about it.
The bill proposed schools would have to post curriculum online, hold meetings for community members to decide school curriculum and give parents the option to opt-in or out of certain educational lessons they may feel uncomfortable with their kids learning.
Attending Indiana schools her whole life, IU senior Evelyn Sanchez said while history taught in the school system needs changing, this bill would’ve taken Indiana a step backward. She said it would harm communities of color.
“I definitely do think it needs to be changed, but this is completely the opposite action,” Sanchez said. “It continues the white supremacy rhetoric when it comes to learning about history.”
If Indiana teachers took Baldwin’s suggestion and started implementing impartiality while teaching lessons like slavery and the Holocaust, it would deny kids the opportunity to learn from important historical events. By not acknowledging these parts of history, kids would never learn, thus allowing history to repeat itself.
The bill sparked controversy across the state, also prohibiting schools from directing students and employees to follow certain principles regarding characteristics such as sex, race and religion. Sanchez said a lack of comprehensive teaching would hurt students.
“I didn’t have access to my own identity’s history until I got to college and that’s something I know I would have loved to see growing up,” Sanchez said. “This is definitely something mentally that can harm students and teachers. It is completely going backward and hiding communities of colors’ histories.”
History is taught so that we learn from it and do not repeat it. Sanchez said we cannot pick and choose what we disregard from historical studying.
“It is important because that is history and that is a form of violence,” Sanchez said. “That’s like saying these issues don’t exist, which they do, so the fact that parents have an option to opt-out can harm not just the students but also teachers.”
This bill would also change the teaching process for underpaid and overworked educators.
“Teachers don’t have the time to be making an extra lesson plan, they already don’t get paid enough to do the current lesson plans that they have,” Sanchez said. “I feel like this only benefits, at the end of the day, the white republicans.”
While it is a victory the legislation stopped SB 167 from moving further, there is still a fight to be had. There is a similar version in the Indiana House of Representatives called HB 1134, which essentially limits teaching America’s history of racism if it were to pass.
This bill is just as dangerous and threatening as SB 167 to students who come from communities of color. Sanchez said the fight is not over.
“Although SB 167 isn’t passing, that doesn’t mean there won’t be other similar bills,” Sanchez said. “I hope SB 167 motivates people to continue to learn about legislation and show their disapproval for harmful bills such as this.”
Teaching important events related to racial history may make some people uncomfortable. However, it is nothing in comparison to the discomfort felt by many people of color all over the United States today. If we do not have a comprehensive education, history will continue to repeat itself as the white supremacist rhetoric manifests in schools.