An Indiana state senator has backtracked on his remarks that teachers must be impartial when discussing nazism in classrooms after he sparked widespread backlash.
During a state senate committee hearing last week about Senate Bill 167, a proposed bill that would ban “concepts that divide”, the Republican senator Scott Baldwin, who co-wrote the bill, said teachers should remain unprejudiced when teaching lessons about fascism and nazism.
“Marxism, nazism, fascism … I have no problem with the education system providing instruction on the existence of those ‘isms’,” Baldwin said, adding, “I believe we’ve gone too far when we take a position … We need to be impartial.” He went on to say that teachers should “just provide the facts” and that he is “not sure it’s right for us to determine how that child should think and that’s where I’m trying to provide the guardrails”.
Baldwin has since walked back on his remarks. In an email to the Indianapolis Star last Thursday, he said that his intention with the bill was to make sure teachers are being impartial when discussing and teaching “legitimate political groups”.
“When I was drafting this bill, my intent with regard to ‘political affiliation’ was to cover political parties within the legal American political system,” Baldwin said. “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.”
He went on to denounce the aforementioned ideologies, saying, “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.”
SB 167 was filed in recent weeks in response to the fierce debates that have emerged across Indiana and the rest of the country in the past year regarding the ways schools should teach children about racism, history and other subject matters.
The bill prohibits kindergarten through 12th grade schools from teaching students that “any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation” is inherently superior, inferior, racist, sexist, oppressive. Teachers would also be prohibited from making individuals feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish, responsibility or any other form of psychological distress” when it comes to meritocracy and the notion that it was created by one group to oppress another.
The bill also prohibits teachers and curriculums from teaching that Indiana and the United States was founded as a racist or sexist state or nation.
The midwest chapter of the Anti-Defamation League has criticized Baldwin’s apology, arguing that it “doesn’t change the deep harms of using ‘impartiality’ or ‘neutrality’ as tools to sanitize history”.
“This is part of the continued efforts by some to try and rewrite history and characterize extremism, racism, and genocide as somehow legitimate. That is dangerous and despicable. It should be categorically, universally, and loudly rejected,” the organization added.
The incident comes less than three months after a north Texas school official said that classrooms with books on Holocaust must offer “opposing” viewpoints.