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Sunday, April 14
The Indiana Daily Student

opinion politics

OPINION: The Republican Party is ruining education

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The school year is about to begin again and things aren’t looking great for those of us living in red states. The Republican Party has been trying to remold education in its own image everywhere, taking actions that will seriously undermine American youth.  

Florida is ground-zero for a conservative push toward a “patriotic education.” Back in 2020 former President Trump called for such a curriculum and his administration later released the 1776 Commission, a report critical of so-called liberal indoctrination in schools.  

The Florida laws that followed have echoed this language of “patriotic education” – in 2021 Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 5, which requires the implementation in Florida schools of “patriotic programs.” The bill also requires students learn about the “blessings of liberty” secured by the U.S. constitution, and requires “comparative discussion of political ideologies such as communism…that conflict with principles of freedom and democracy…” 

What has this patriotic education looked like in practice?  

Courses like AP Psychology will not be offered in some Florida schools and an AP course in African American Studies was outright rejected by DeSantis. Some Florida schools will now only teach excerpts of Shakespeare’s plays rather than present them in their entirety – apparently plays like “Romeo and Juliet” are not “age-appropriate.” 

Florida law mandates children be taught that reproductive gender roles are “binary, stable and unchangeable.” Children are to be taught that some Black people benefitted from slavery because it taught them “useful skills.” The state has banned dozens of math textbooks that apparently promote critical race theory.  

If all this already sounds insane, they intend to go further, mandating courses in “Western civilization,” eliminating diversity and equity programs and combatting supposed “ideological conformity.”

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Vile, disgusting, racist garbage – that is what a patriotic education amounts to. Patriotic education is a sham that deprives children from properly learning about the country they will inherit.  

Conservative education is riddled with contradictions and will necessarily require lies of omission. For example, how can a course about so-called Western civilization censor Shakespeare? Could such a course introduce students to masters like Sappho, with her homoerotic poetry? I suppose she and many others would have to be erased from the canon.  

Patriotic history standards are particularly egregious. One of the reasons it’s important to learn history is because of the subject’s explanatory power. We learn history so we can understand the present. 

The history of the U.S. as proposed by Republican lawmakers doesn’t explain the country we currently live in. A patriotic education that glorifies the nation and its founders serves to obfuscate the very real material problems Americans face today.  

To teach students that, for example, slavery was beneficial to Black people functions to promote the greater conservative agenda – the denial of ongoing systemic racism. They diminish the evils of slavery in order to dispel the idea that its effects linger into the present day.  

Ignore what’s in front of you, they say. Income and wealth disparities between white people and racial minorities, police brutality, substandard housing, disproportionate levels of incarceration – these things make America look bad. They must disappear in the face of a patriotic education.  

All these Republican measures will destroy any joy there is in learning. It depresses me to think that if I had been a little younger, I might have been deprived of Shakespeare and the classics. The fascinating complexities of gender and sex would be totally shielded from me. The ironies and the messiness of history would be wiped clean in favor of patriotic propaganda.  

Take Thomas Jefferson, for example. A patriotic education would glorify him as a great man — a president, the writer of the immortal words, “All men are created equal.” That would probably be the end of it. The truth is that Jefferson was a rapist and a slaver and the writer of the words “All men are created equal,” words echoed throughout American history, words evoked by people like Martin Luther King centuries later. 

Isn’t the truth more interesting?  

As aforementioned, Florida seeks to combat “ideological conformity.” At the same time, its education standards demonize the left, claiming socialism and communism are incompatible with freedom and democracy. 

This doesn’t mesh well with American history, if one is to tell the truth. Let us look at the tradition of American communism. The American Communist Party was an early proponent of the Civil Rights Movement in the South. The Party organized Black Americans into unions, raised money for Black defendants (most of whom were wrongfully accused) and fought against Jim Crow. 

Beloved historical figures, like Dr. King, Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandella, W.E.B. Du Bois, Frida Kahlo – all were socialists or communists. There are many others. Florida: will you demand your educators denounce them? Or will you tell the truth about them and allow students to make up their own minds? 

Many other Hoosiers like me have probably been following these disturbing developments in Florida education quite closely, all of us with the same thought in our heads: that could happen here. 

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Unfortunately, it already is happening here. For example, back in May Gov. Holcomb signed a law similar to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prohibits Indiana teachers from teaching human sexuality in kindergarten through third grade. 

Our students deserve better than this. They deserve to enjoy the literature we enjoyed, to learn accurate science about gender rather than bigoted nonsense, to understand a history that actually explains the world they live in now. Our students do not need a patriotic education – they need to become critical thinkers. The education conservatives are proposing will make this impossible. 

Jared Quigg (he/him) is a senior studying journalism and political science.

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