The following is an opinion piece by members of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, Phil and Joan Harris.
An article by Carson TerBush, published in Chalkbeat on December 15th, describes the Indiana legislature’s attempt in their next session to put in place multiple education bills to ensure that educational content for Indiana K-12 public schools is controlled.
This legislation is described as only intending to monitor public schools; however, the Curriculum Control Committees are designed to censor state-approved textbooks, professional instructional materials and books in school libraries.
If every school district creates an advisory curriculum committee, does that mean we will have 291 different curricula taught in Indiana schools? Will these “advisory” Curriculum Control Committees be reviewing all instructional materials including math, science, social studies and language arts? With committees composed of 40% parents and 20% members of the public able to control what is being taught in our schools, why would we need a State Department of Education and certified teachers?
According to the author, elected school boards will have the ultimate power to accept or reject the recommendations of the committee. If so, what purpose does the committee really serve other then to attempt to censor materials they may not agree with and to pressure their elected boards to override the thinking of professional educators?
Is the reference to obscene language in some books an attempt to further censure ideas that allow children to grow in their critical thinking skills? It seems more like an attempt to pretend the last 30-plus years of a coarsening of the culture didn’t happen and is a repeat of the effort from at least the 1980s.
Is this an attempt to prevent the teaching about the history of enslaved people and the racism that is deeply embedded in our culture?
If we ignore the role that race has played in the formation of our laws and policies, which Critical Race Theory addresses principally in law schools, nothing will change.
The attack is directed at every level of public education: school boards, curriculum decision committees, library materials, and what teachers say and do in their classrooms.
Teaching children to engage in problem solving and to use their critical thinking skills, and providing them with the tools they will need to be able to make judgments regarding the wide range of social issues they will encounter, is essential to preserving the health of our democracy.
This proposed legislation raises the most fundamental question with regard to our public schools: What is the purpose of our public education system? One answer appears clearly in our state's constitution:
Knowledge and learning, generally diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual, scientific, and agricultural improvement; and to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.
Elsewhere, that same document refers to a "general and uniform system of common schools." The education bills currently festering in the legislative chambers of the Hoosier State will in no way meet the aims our state's founders sought for their schools and will instead hamstring that most democratic of institutions, the local school board.
“But what can I do?” you say. Contact your local elected representatives by phone or e-mail. Write letters to your local newspaper. Attend your local school board meeting and ask questions about how curriculum materials are selected. Support Indiana Coalition for Public Education-Monroe County and local parent-teacher organizations even if you don’t have children in school. Democracy depends on your participation.
Indiana Coalition for Public Education–Monroe County (ICPE–Monroe County) advocates for all children to have high quality, equitable, well-funded schools that are subject to democratic oversight by their communities.
We are a nonpartisan and nonprofit group of parents, grandparents, caregivers, teachers, and other community members of Monroe County and surrounding areas.