GOP Pushes New Education Bill: ‘Transparency’ or Censorship?

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By Albert Chang-Yoo

House Bill 1807, circulates in the Washington State Legislature and echoes a growing GOP talking point about the need for “transparency” in schools. Representative Joe Walsh (R-19) first filed the invoice on January 6, stating that the Legislature believes that parents “have been discouraged by the radical rhetoric of some state consultants who talk about their goals of ‘destabilizing’ and ‘tearing down’ the education system and programs of basis of the state”.

HB 1807 proposes to ban K-12 teachings that suggest the United States is structurally racist or sexist, discouraging student activism, requiring an American civics course with specified readings, and a provision that states that classes “cannot be compelled to discuss any particular current event or topic currently controversial in public policy or social affairs, including writings derived from or related to resources such as The 1619 Project.”

The Republican-sponsored bill will most likely fail because the Washington state legislature is controlled by Democrats in both houses. However, the bill is indicative of the nationwide Conservative push to reform the education system. States like Ohio, Georgia and Michigan are introducing bills that would require teachers to post their curriculum online for parental review. Some Texas school districts banned children’s books about race and gender identity. In Florida, a bill to discourage discussions of sexual orientation judge “Don’t Say Gay” progresses through the legislature.

Since the inauguration of President Joe Biden, 37 states have propose bills challenging the so-called “awakened” teachings. Of that total, 14 states have successfully passed laws censoring classrooms, and 16 states still have bills pending in the legislature.

For the GOP, “transparency” in education is a winning political message. During the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial race, Democrat Terry McAuliffe cost himself when he declared, “I don’t think parents should tell schools what to teach” in a debate on schools. The issue of parenting choice was seized by Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, who rocketed through suburban polls and eventually won the governor’s seat in the blue state.

Professor Terry Beck spent 19 years working in public schools and 23 years at the University of Puget Sound. According to him, these bills are designed to avoid difficult conversations, especially for white children: “They don’t say white children, they say anyone who is uncomfortable because of their race, but they mean white children”. He believes that while concerns should not be dismissed entirely, “it’s a form of transparency… It’s dishonest. Because I was a teacher… And I never felt like I got away with anything.

“Parents clearly have a stake in their child’s education, no one would deny that. No one cares for that child like the parent does,’ Professor Beck said. He says that the interest in education also rests with other citizens and the state: “I have an interest in whether a child is brought up to hate people or not; if their child is raised with principles of equality and the value of a human being.

Professor Beck says the most important thing these bills leave out is the interests of the children themselves. “They have an interest in their own education that goes beyond their parents, beyond the state…And in schools, we have a certain obligation to help all children see beyond the parish and to see what life is and what it could be.”

According to Professor Beck, bills appealing to a supposed parental concern play on a ‘consumerist notion’ that ‘the school works for the parent’. In fact, Professor Beck believes that teaching is built on the foundation of a “working relationship”.

The idea of ​​full parental control in education is not new, he says, “wWe constantly argue about this. And it comes in different iterations, different formats, around academic reform in schools all the time. Professor Beck points to the debate on the teaching of secular humanism. At the time, parents from several states accused public schools to be “anti-Christian” and opposed books like “The Diary of Anne Frank”.

Education is an “inherently political enterprise”, says Professor Beck. “It’s always controversial… those kind of perennial questions about who controls education? What is the role of the parent, the teacher, the school board? These are not going to go away.

Nevertheless, Professor Beck wants the school to be a place where social and political issues are reconciled: “the school was originally designed as a place where we learn to live together. We are learning to speak across differences… I hope we will choose to be smart, informed, empathetic and caring citizens in the future.

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