Another State Lawmaker Thinks Teachers Should Be Banned From Discussing 'Controversial' Issues

from the 'party-of-free-speech'-strikes-again dept

Having gotten it into his head that teachers are "indoctrinating" the mushy minds of school students, an Arizona lawmaker has introduced a bill almost certainly headed for a Constitutional challenge.

State Rep. Mark Finchem wants to ban public and charter school teachers from spreading “controversial” political, racial and religious messages in their classrooms.

The Oro Valley Republican introduced House Bill 2002 in the Legislature last week. If it passes, teachers could face consequences as severe as losing their jobs for engaging in any “political, ideological or religious” advocacy or discussion with their students.

The bill [PDF] introduces, among other things, a requirement for teachers to attend three hours of annual "ethics training" and adopt a strict "ethics code" that prevents them from talking about a long list of things Rep. Finchem finds "controversial." The list begins with blocking teachers from advocating for political parties, candidates, and legislation, which already makes part of the bill redundant.

State law already bars public and charter school employees from using school resources, including personnel, to influence the outcome of an election.

But that's only part of the list of forbidden subjects. The bill also forbids teachers from:

Discussing any litigation making its way through the nation's courts.

Introducing "controversial issues" not related to the course being taught

Endorsing any activity that "hampers or impedes lawful access of military recruiters to the campus"

Endorsing or engaging in any activity that "hampers or impedes the actions" of law enforcement

"Singling out" one racial group as "being responsible" for the suffering of another race

It also introduces some weird form of "Fairness Doctrine" by demanding teachers provide resources supporting both sides of any controversial subject that somehow makes it way past Rep. Finchem's speech barrier. These multiple incursions on the First Amendment are followed by dubious "findings" Finchem wants to have codified as legislative facts.

A. The legislature finds and declares that:

1. The purpose of public education in Arizona is to produce knowledgeable and competent adults who are able to participate as informed citizens in the democratic process of selecting representation in our constitutional republic.

2. Education in a democracy is best served by teaching students how to think, not telling them what to think. Our country is divided over many issues affecting its citizens. It has been established through surveys that a majority of K-12 teachers discuss controversial issues in their classrooms.

3. It has been established that some teacher training institutions, teacher licensing agencies, state education departments and professional teacher organizations have condoned and even encouraged this behavior under the guise of "teaching for social justice" and other sectarian doctrines. Time spent on political or ideological indoctrination takes time away from instruction in the academic subjects taught by public educational institutions, including the foundational subjects of mathematics, science, English, history and civics, and prevents students from receiving the best possible public education as funded by the taxpayers of this state.

4. Parents and taxpayers have a right to expect that taxpayer resources will be spent on education, not political or ideological indoctrination.

Perhaps Mark Finchem will allow these many surveys supporting his indoctrination theory to be read into the state record along with the rest of his bullshit bill. Finchem claims a "stunning number" of calls from concerned parents has prompted this action, rather than the organized #RedForEd educator walkout that accompanied educators' demands for increased funding.

There's no chance this bill survives a Constitutional challenge if it somehow becomes law. Restrictions on speech -- even that of government employees -- demands a narrow crafting. Targeting speech with legislation requires a sniper's mentality. Finchem is carrying a shotgun loaded with birdshot and hoping it's enough to prevent speech he doesn't like from being spoken in the state's classrooms.

Filed Under: arizona, controversial topics, free speech, mark finchem, oro valley, schools, teaching


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  1. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 4 Jan 2019 @ 12:00pm

    As banal as a "both sides" curriculum would be, that's not really what Finchem wants. He wants to put his finger on the scale in support of his side.

    It is what everyone who does the “both sides” bullshit wants. A Flat Earther, for example, wants their of the “argument” about the shape of the Earth heard—and without a “both sides” requirement that treats the position of Flat Earthers and the position of everyone with a fully functioning brain as equally valid positions that require “debate”, the Flat Earthers will rightfully have their bullshit laughed out of anywhere that is not “Flat-friendly”.

    Incidentally, the Charlottesville situation is tangentially related to this by way of Donald Trump’s remarks about “fine people on both sides”. His comments placed White supremacists and Nazis on the same level of validity as those protesting the White supremacists and Nazis. It gave the so-called “alt-right” groups a boost in credibility, regardless of whether Trump meant to do that. (Although given his racist leanings and the general racial demography of his voter base, his doing so intentionally would not surprise me.)


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