Indiana teachers push back against school curriculum bills

A controversial Indiana bill that Republican lawmakers contend would increase transparency around school curricula has drawn opposition from dozens of teachers who testified Monday at the Statehouse that the legislation would censor classroom instruction and place unnecessary additional workloads on educators.

The bill is one of several moving through the Indiana Legislature that seek to require all school curricula to be vetted by parent review committees and posted publicly online, in addition to banning schools’ ability to implement concepts like critical race theory.

Critical race theory is a way of thinking about America’s history that centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that they function to maintain the dominance of white people in society.

Scott Miller, superintendent of the School City of Hammond, emphasized that addressing “sensitive topics” in the classroom is necessary to help young people learn how to evaluate the truth. Attempts to keep students from learning about dissenting ideologies, he continued, “will only end up driving our youth straight to those ideologies.”

Miller said he believes the legislation stems from “fear that diverse perspectives on our country’s founding will lessen the strength and patriotism of our young people.”

“Addressing that fear by attempting to chill classroom discussion and silencing certain worldviews will only further divide our children,” he said.

Paul Farmer, a teacher in the Monroe County Community School Corporation, noted that the bill’s language requiring educators to separately post all classroom curricula online for parents—including lesson plans, worksheets, presentations and other materials—would be an additional workload for already stressed teachers.

“Is this really going to decrease the number of teachers that go into education? The answer is yes, it will, because it’s going to scare them … because you can’t do it all,” Farmer said.

Laura Falk, an educator and diversity initiative specialist with the West Lafayette Community School Corporation, said she questioned the bill’s intentions amid recent nationwide discussions around “white fragility, and focus on the systemic racist policies that have been so deeply woven into our nation’s fabric.”

“When I look through my lens as a Black woman, I find many of these items are interesting, as I’ve experienced decades of discrimination and learned through my experience that there are certain groups that are still discriminated against today …,” Falk said. “Our students deserve an honest and accurate education that enables them to learn from our past mistakes to help create a better future possible. Instead of focusing on possible distress that students might experience.

Rep. Tony Cook, a former teacher and school superintendent who authored the House bill heard on Monday, echoed fellow Republican lawmakers, saying the legislation only strives to ensure educators “remain impartial in teaching curriculum” and “ensure that students are free to express their own beliefs and viewpoints concerning curricular materials and educational activities without discrimination.”

He noted, too, that at least two forthcoming amendments to the bill are expected to be discussed in the education committee on Wednesday, the same day lawmakers are slated to hear additional testimony and vote on advancing the bill to the full House.

A nearly identical proposal in the Senate, which Republican bill author Sen. Scott Baldwin maintained is intended to prevent certain “discriminatory concepts” from being taught in classrooms, sparked more than eight hours of testimony last week.

Baldwin’s exchange with a teacher during testimony on that bill sparked criticism after he said teachers must be “impartial” when discussing Nazism and other political ideologies, although he has since walked back those statements.

The bill is scheduled for a vote by the Senate education committee on Wednesday.

A similar piece of legislation in the House, authored by Republican Rep. J.D. Prescott of Union City, would additionally require students to be taught that concepts like “socialism, Marxism, communism, totalitarianism, or similar political systems” are “incompatible with the concepts of freedom upon which the United States was founded,” in grades six through 12.

His proposal—which has not yet been assigned a hearing by the House education committee—would also allow parents to opt their students out of face mask or vaccine requirements, and mandates that schools cannot require students or teachers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or another communicable disease.

Another Republican-backed House bill that would add political-party identifications to what are now nonpartisan school board elections in Indiana is scheduled to be heard by the House elections committee on Tuesday.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

9 thoughts on “Indiana teachers push back against school curriculum bills

    1. As though a hyperpartisan comedy site like The Guardian doesn’t have a bogeyman in “muh fascism”? And, to show their lack of self-awareness, the same people soiling their diapers about fascism are now wanting to create paper and passports just so you can go into a restaurant? Mercy me, the moral narcissism has no limits.

      For today’s radicalized left, color of skin IS content of character.

      CRT is the precursor for getting rid of accelerated math (because they think minorities can’t handle it), for resegregating classrooms, and all the other stuff these people who believe themselves to be morally/intellectually superior to their own constituents. If this destroys the public school system then good riddance.

      Once a democrat, always a dixiecrat.

      At what point in your life, Joe, did you determine that black people were beat-down and incapable of getting by that they needed people like you to hold their hands through life?

    2. I have no interest in holding anyone’s hand past my wife or kids. I simply think others should get the boot off their necks.

      If you can’t recognize how that’s happened over history, and still happens today, can’t help you. If you find teaching accurate American history threatening, can’t help you.

      It’s amazing the hysteria and backlash around CRT given no one can exactly explain what it is. But it’s sure got those who reside in the conservative media silo riled up. It’s almost as though the entire enterprise is at war with their own country 24/7/365. Sure feels like CRT is being used to distract them from all that treason that went down a year ago. Also, sure feels like conservatives need something to be angry about all the time.

      And go ahead and send all the those plans for CRT you allege. Make sure to widely disseminate your sources.

      If CRT is being taught in Indiana schools, parents already have the right to vote with their feet and move their kids to any other public or private school district in Indiana… and they have the ability to run for per school board elections if they choose. And, a reminder, Indiana Republicans control all the levers for what it taught in Indiana schools and have for over a decade. (They didn’t let Glenda Ritz do anything.)

      I am mystified as to why further government interference is needed other than to feed the conservative media outage monster some “accomplishments”.

  1. Both Indiana’s legislators and Indiana’s high school teachers think of themselves as far more important than they really are. They should leave each other alone.

  2. Apparently the Indiana law makers believe it is important to allow children to develop their own beliefs and that teachers should not lead them to a conclusion. As such, going forward, when a first grader believes 1 + 2 is 5, it seems it could be illegal for a teacher to correct them as that would change the child’s belief. Similarly, teachers are to avoid impacting the emotional state of a child. As such, extreme grades such an A+ that might cause extreme excitement will likely need to be avoided. The most interesting part of the bill, if my reading is correct (and since it seems the push is to allow people to believe what they want, it seems that it doesn’t matter if I actually read it correctly) is that we will now be having a teacher teach multiple things at the same time. If a student opts out of instructions, the teacher has to give them a different lesson at the same time they are teaching the original lesson. That should be interesting to see.

    There are so many things in this bill that can be misinterpreted that it is frightening. I thought the focus of the current leading political party in Indiana was to reduce mandates and regulations. This seems like a good move towards further destroying public schools.

  3. I see both sides of this debate but I tend to agree with Brad J. More regulation is not the answer. I am a former teacher and when I look at what teaching has become it is not appealing now at all. With the way things have changed and seem to be heading in the future, it will be very difficult to attract new teachers. The legislature just cannot help themselves and they are going to undermine and perhaps even destroy public education if they do not exercise some restraint. To be fair, there are some things that many parents are rightly concerned about, and they should be. The preoccupation with wokeism and political correctness that is being forced down our throats is not healthy, as it is not based on truth. The left is very clever. They promote diversity and inclusion but do not allow it if it differs from their ideas. What we really need now more than ever is unity – not diversity, in terms of our mutual respect for this nation and the foundation of its ideals. We need clear thinking and the ability to differentiate between truth and error. We need critical thinking skills and a strong work ethic to be taught to our youth.

    1. Fundamentally I agree with you Joe F. We need unity, and we’re not going to get this through legislation. The essence of what these bills are trying to achieve, they won’t work. These are people who are as possessed by ideology as the Xtian fundamentalists of the past were at one point in time. We still have those kooky Christians, but we also have powerful media watchdogs helping to keep things like “intelligent design” from infiltrating public schools. But the powerful media watchdogs are 95% on board with revisionist history in the form of CRT or Social Emotional Learning (the latest CRT work-around), so it’s harder to make people aware of how ludicrous their “theories” really are.

      What you are seeking in your final few sentence is outside of the purview of public schools. Critical thinking and a strong work ethic don’t happen through top-down initiatives, and some people will always lack them no matter how hard we try to inculcate them. And if the teachers/superintendents think they should ramrod other things in–moral fundamentals that parents should be teaching their own children–then maybe the best solution really is to let public schools rot. Like a phoenix in the ashes, we can build anew, if the left ever overcomes its moral panic and becomes liberal once again, rather than merely left-wing.

    2. Spare me. You can get your child educated right now on the taxpayer dole here in Indiana and be taught all kinds of nonsense in a private school with your vouchers.

      Read a book from the Bob Jones curriculum sometimes. I have, it’s out there.

      That’s what is actually happening, as opposed to your CRT scaremongering. So don’t try to walk past it.

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets on
{{ count_down }}