HB 1134 is euphamistically referred to by its authors as a curriculum transparency bill when in reality it is a “Teacher Harassment and Work Overload Bill” designed to appeal to the small percentage of parents who are biased against classroom content that offends their religious, political, and/or social sensitivities.
As is usually the case when legislators use the few, but loud, voices of their constituents to further their political platforms, they overly react with extreme and vague language that usually have absurd and unforeseen consequences. In this case especially, HB 1134 makes classroom teachers as a whole feel the brunt of misplaced accusations, stereotyping, demeaning and extremely burdensome extra work demands that actually diminish the scarce time they have for educating students.
It is so ironic that one year Republican legislators are crowing about how much teachers are undervalued, more are needed, and are underpaid, but the very next year target them as if they are responsible for branding white kids and their parents as racists and are inundating kids with instruction about sex, sexual preferences and alternative lifestyles. All of which result in unfair harm to teachers as a group and as a profession.
People are also reading…
Instead of reinforcing already existing means of challenging classroom content, legislators resort to extreme acts of encouraging individual lawsuits, vigilante accusation making and creating vague thresholds for such actions that simply need to meet the criteria of making them feel uncomfortable.
By the way, wasn’t it Republicans who ironically complained about a supposed cancel culture who are now wanting to cancel/diminish the teaching of accurate history related to the horrors of slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, mistreatment of native Americans, Mexicans, and resistance to women’s rights and discrimination towards LGBTQ?
All of this, of course, is based on supposedly not wanting current generation of white youth from feeling guilty, badly, or even supposedly “feeling blame” for the behavior of previous generations of a portion of the white community. (Seriously, never in my 44 years in education did I ever have a parent complain that their child felt blame for the sins of America’s past.)
With respect to unintended consequences, in order to avoid the accurate accusation that HB 1134 is primarily aimed at issues of race and LGBTQ, authors refer to the need for teachers to avoid taking a stand on almost anything involving a value judgement of right and wrong. (We only need to recall the absurd comment that teachers should remain neutral about even Nazism. In retracing that comment it was “clarified” that of course Nazism, Marxism and Fascism are bad. But suspiciously not mentioned were racism or authoritarianism.)
So now the door is open for some parents to object to almost anything in any subject with which they disagree. Some incredulous examples would be: opposing evolution, age of the earth, dinosaurs did not walk with humans, climate change, any literature, accurate history, “modern math," etc. When asked about any limit there might be for a parent to withdraw a student from a subject or topic, the answer was incredulously, “no limit!”
Adding to the list of unforeseen consequences would be the potentially immense workload put on teachers who would have to not only create and post specific syllabi and materials, but then have to provide alternative lessons for who knows how many students for who knows how many times during the school year. The absurdity of it all is mind boggling.
Also amazing, is the fact that HB 1134 does not apply to private schools! One has to wonder if all parents in private schools really want the Bible taught as their science book? On the other hand, if parents are unhappy with the state approved curriculum of the public schools, why shouldn’t they just transfer to Indiana’s state funded private schools instead of making absurd work requirements on teachers to meet their personal preferences and beliefs?!
HB 1134 is unnecessary, unwieldy, misinformed, and makes teachers targets of harassment, needless paperwork and potentially constant lesson plan revisions for individual complaints. Further, HB 1134 is a thinly veiled political attempt to intimidate the accurate teaching of history, science, and social reconciliation that is integral to a public education of students regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or personal lifestyle.
HB 1134 should not be passed!
Tony Lux is a retired superintendent of Merrillville Schools, board member of NWI Coalition for Public Schools and Indiana Coalition for Public Schools. The opinions are the writer's.