A Republican Indiana state senator took a moment to question last week whether teachers would be crossing some sort of boundary by having a position on Nazism and fascism in their classrooms and stressed the need to be “impartial.”
The comments—which Sen. Scott Baldwin has since backtracked—came during a Wednesday committee hearing regarding legislation Baldwin co-authored, which would block the teaching of “certain concepts that divide and stereotype people into groups based on sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation,” like many similar proposals around the country. A section of the legislation would also bar teachers from affecting “students’ attitudes, habits, traits, opinions, beliefs, or feelings” when teaching certain subjects, according to the Washington Post.
During the hearing, a history teacher, naturally, brought up that his classroom is currently learning about fascism and “the rise of Nazism,” according to the Star.
“I'm just not neutral on the political ideology of fascism,” said the teacher, Matt Bockenfeld, according to the Star. “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.”
Baldwin clarified–sort of.
“I have no problem with the education system providing instruction on the existence of those isms,” he said. “I believe that we've gone too far when we take a position on those isms .… We need to be impartial.”
“We just provide the facts,” Baldwin said. “The kids formulate their own viewpoints.”
Baldwin later told the Indianapolis Star he’d been unclear in his comments and said that it’s fine to teach kids that Nazism and fascism are, indeed, bad.
“When I was drafting this bill, my intent with regard to 'political affiliation' was to cover political parties within the legal American political system. In my comments during committee, I was thinking more about the big picture and trying to say that we should not tell kids what to think about politics,” Baldwin said.
He continued: “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.”
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