Indiana Republican under fire after saying teachers must be ‘impartial’ about Nazis and fascism
All over the United States, Republicans in state governments have been going after schoolteachers whose classes don’t conform to their views on race or history. One such Republican is Indiana State Sen. Scott Baldwin, who is co-sponsoring a bill that, if passed, would ban teachers in his state from promoting “divisive concepts” in classrooms — and he is drawing scrutiny after saying that teachers should show impartiality when teaching about the history of fascism and Naziism.
Baldwin promoted his bill during a January 5 hearing. According to Washington Post reporter Jaclyn Peiser, Baldwin said, “Marxism, Nazism, fascism.… I have no problem with the education system providing instruction on the existence of those ‘isms. I believe that we’ve gone too far when we take a position.… We need to be impartial.”
The following day, Baldwin wrote to the Indianapolis Star and said his goal was to keep teachers from telling students “what to think about politics.”
Baldwin told the Star, “Nazism, Marxism and fascism are a stain on our world history and should be regarded as such, and I failed to adequately articulate that in my comments during the meeting. I believe that kids should learn about these horrible events in history so that we don’t experience them again in humanity.”
Star reporter Arika Herron cites Indiana Senate Bill 167, the bill Baldwin is promoting, as a proposal that has been “inspired by the national discourse over critical race theory.”
Many Republican politicians and right-wing media figures have become obsessed with critical race theory, a field of academic study that is taught on some college campuses in the U.S. CRT, in essence, teaches that racism of the past continues to affect modern-day institutions. A college professor who actually teaches CRT might argue that although Jim Crow laws were abolished in the 1960s, they left a long-lasting effect that is still being felt today.
Although academic CRT isn’t taught in public K12 schools in Indiana or anywhere else, anti-CRT Republicans have been acting like it is — and many teachers fear that any books having to do with race, whether it’s “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” or the work of Toni Morrison, could fall prey to anti-CRT hysteria.
Matt Bockenfeld, a history teacher in Indiana, has been critical of SB 167. During the January 5 hearing, Bockenfeld argued, “For example, it’s the second semester of U.S. history, so we're learning about the rise of fascism and the rise of Nazism right now. And I’m just not neutral on the political ideology of fascism. We condemn it, and we condemn it in full, and I tell my students the purpose, in a democracy, of understanding the traits of fascism is so that we can recognize it and we can combat it.”
On January 6, Bockenfeld tweeted:
Yesterday I testified at the Senate Education Committee hearing on SB167. The video of my initial statement is divided between the next two tweets. \n\n The bill has a list of 8 \u201cdivisive concepts\u201d that educators can\u2019t promote. Most of them are no issue AT ALLpic.twitter.com/xsBEac1W89— Matt Bockenfeld (@Matt Bockenfeld) 1641508766
But I was concerned with one passage, about teachers being banned from promoting certain emotional reactions from kids. My concern is that this is so broad that, in theory, a teacher could be reprimanded for encouraging students to be mortified by ideologies like white supremacypic.twitter.com/0m8hYzhck3— Matt Bockenfeld (@Matt Bockenfeld) 1641508814
Is 2022 really the year that we\u2019ll punish teachers, maybe even strip them of their license, for opposing hateful ideologies? \n\nDemocracy is not value-neutral. Teachers cannot just mindlessly provide trivia facts about Nazism but attach no moral judgement to it— Matt Bockenfeld (@Matt Bockenfeld) 1641508837
Baldwin has a history of controversy in Indiana, where the Star reported that his name was on a list of purported members of the Oath Keepers — an extremist far-right militia group that federal investigators have linked to the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol Building. Baldwin, however, has denied being an Oath Keepers member but told the Star he gave them a $30 contribution in 2010.
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