Educational Discourse on Trial

Educational discourse, as we currently know it in the United States of America, is on trial in the Arizona State Senate. Re-publican Majority Leader Sen. Thayer Ver-schoor is seeking to pass a bill (SB 1542) that would forbid educators from engaging in political discourse within the context of the classroom. The bill has already passed out of the Government Committee with a party line vote in favor of a “do pass” rec-ommendation. On the surface, the bill sounds like an ethical prerogative that might be applied more uniformly over the educational cur-ricula. Teachers shouldn’t use their class-rooms as a soapbox upon which to stand and deliver political rhetoric in the classroom. They should provide unbiased accounts of contemporary viewpoints and not use their position of power to sway the students who look up to them. Right? Wrong. This bill is another example of the polit-ical doublespeak that is becoming so com-mon in today’s political discourse. The bill states that a teacher shall not “Advocate one side of a social, political or cultural issue that is a matter of parti-san controversy.” This seems legitimate until one attempts to define partisan con-troversy. Essentially partisan controversy could be construed as to allow any minor-ity to subject educational curricula to their viewpoints no matter how ludicrous or ma-licious. Further, the educator would not be permitted to lend weight to any side of the debate over the others, thus allowing minorities, such as holocaust deniers, the same presence in the classroom as those who choose to acknowledge the tragedy that befell Europe in the early to mid-20th century. If passed into law the bill would allow the attorney general or the county attorney in the county in which the alleged violation took place to initiate a suit in the superior court of that county. This would allow the attorney general and/or the county attor-ney to control the educational curriculum in that county. An obvious hypothetical example of abuse of this power in a conservative state would be the forcing of creationism into educational curricula alongside scientific theories of evolution. Any educator who is found guilty of violating this bill, if passed into law, will be subject to a civil penalty of up to $500 dollars and will further be subject to revo-cation of their teaching license, essentially depriving them of their livelihood.If this bill passes into law, the very foundation of the American educational system would be subjected to the whims of political activism in a very direct and very destructive way.