“Protecting” Indiana’s Children

When Hoosier legislators talk about “protecting children,” they are rarely taking aim at tangible harms. Quite the contrary: in many cases, they are  the harm. (Just this session, Dennis Kruse has authored S.B. 34; it would deny appropriate medical and psychological services to gay youngsters.)

Indiana’s legislature is filled with culture warriors eager to appeal to the GOP’s increasingly  racist base, so I suppose we shouldn’t be shocked when legislators with absolutely no background or expertise in education take it upon themselves to prescribe what shall be taught– and how.

GOP pooh-bas are constantly complaining that reasonable efforts to protect public health are government “overreach”–yet the measure introduced by Representative Scott Baldwin is an absolute monument to overreach–much of it too vague to enforce properly, all of it likely to empower a subset of angry and uninformed parents, and–if passed– likely to drive teachers out of Indiana.

The bill was obviously motivated by the GOP’s trumped-up hysteria over Critical Race Theory (which none of its opponents can define, and which has never been taught in public schools). What opponents of CRT are really against is teaching anything suggesting that racism is bad. Obviously, when proponents of these “anti-CRT” bills accidentally admit that, it causes a bit of an uproar. So Baldwin has had to “walk back” a previous statement.

An Indiana state senator who is facing criticism for saying teachers must be impartial when discussing Nazism is walking back his remarks.

Indiana state Sen. Scott Baldwin said he wasn’t clear when he said a bill he filed at the Indiana Statehouse would require teachers to be impartial in their teaching of all subjects, including during lessons about Nazism, Marxism and fascism.

Baldwin evidently believes that discussions of Nazism, Marxism and fascism should be “fair and balanced.” Like Fox “News.”

During a committee hearing Wednesday about Senate Bill 167, a wide-ranging bill inspired by the national discourse over critical race theory, history teacher Matt Bockenfeld raised concerns about what the bill would require of teachers. He gave what he thought was an extreme example.

“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,” Bockenfeld said. “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.”

Baldwin’s response was instructive (pun intended):

“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.”

Baldwin said that even though he is with Bockenfeld “on those particular isms,” teachers should “just provide the facts.”

“I’m 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 said.

There is much more that is dangerous–not to mention stupid and offensive–in Baldwin’s bill. (It is discussed in more detail at this link ). The bill is being described as an effort at “transparency,” which is wildly misleading. It would require teachers to post their syllabi and materials so that parents can access (nitpick) them; not only would such a rule be an extra burden on teachers who already have plenty to do, not only would it impose rigidity on what might otherwise be organic discussions (as teachers at the hearing pointed out), it is totally unnecessary.

Transparency already exists.

Parents who supervise their children’s homework, who visit their children’s schools, who show up for parent-teacher conferences, already have access to this information. Those parents, however, aren’t found among the angry anti-CRT, anti-mask activists who’ve descended on some school board meetings. (In several cases, it’s turned out that people in  those groups didn’t even have children in that school system.)

In my experience both as a long-ago high-school teacher and as a parent, teachers are absolutely delighted to share information with parents who are genuinely involved with their children’s education.

I know that today’s Republicans hate “elitists”–defined as people who actually know what they’re doing. The GOP is at war with climate science, dismissive of epidemiologists and medical experts, and convinced that anyone capable of reproducing knows more than classroom teachers who have earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in education.

It’s Indiana’s great misfortune to have a legislature populated with so many walking, talking examples of the Dunning-Kruger effect.


  1. These bills also:
    1) Establish a Texas-style lawsuit authority for anyone from anywhere to sue an “offending” school corporation.
    2) Repeals the state vaccine statute.
    3) Revokes the license of any “offending” teacher or administrator.
    4) Appears to exclude private schools (read Christian academies.)

    The anti-1619/CRT crowd have been very proud of themselves for hijacking Dr. King’s “content of their character” quote from his “I have a Dream” speech. However, these bills would appear to prohibit/threaten a teacher from using his discussion of “promissory notes” being returned for “insufficient funds.” How much more systemic can a discussion be than the Founding Fathers failing to deliver on their promise of “all men are created equal.”

  2. The reason the lawmakers demand neutrality and impartiality on things like Nazism and Fascism is they don’t want to taint those two ‘isms”, knowing that the current GOP has been turning fascist since Goldwater with Gingrich picking up the pace. Movement conservatism is basically Americas version of fascism. As a former republican and conservative I take no pleasure in saying that.

  3. I agree completely that teachers need to teach children how to think critically, not what to think. Take it from someone that didn’t reproduce and is not a teacher ! I want to live in a society that props up education, not tear it down. Humans are good and we are evil. We have to protect the good humans from the evil ones and it starts with education! Right from wrong! You don’t have to be a parent to have that human right.

    But, you all know I’m just a dreamer.

  4. Unless I’m missing the point entirely, it sounds like these GOP fanatics want to make ignorance the law by codifying it at the statehouse.

    The intent of impartiality is good when you have a balance of power between all branches of government, including a fourth branch called the free press, all working for the citizens. According to our Founders, that was their intent when they created a republic with democratic principles.

    Can we at least agree that we don’t have anything resembling what our Founders created 200+ years ago?

    We have an oppressive oligarchy that tilts toward authoritative in red states while slightly less authoritarian in blue states. But still, its essence is an oligarchy where power rests in the hands of a few.

  5. We cannot remain neutral or impartial during this surging Pandemic. If teachers and school administrators are not smart enough to be vaccinated, wear masks on the job or be Covid tested; they are not smart enough to be teaching our children.

  6. There are no words appropriate to describe the stupidity of the legislation that is being introduced by Senators Kruse and Baldwin. I suspect, Professor, that I am the only person who subscribes to you daily thoughts who had you as a teacher. I remember you as a prepared, incredibly firm and demanding professional educator who encouraged careful and intelligent thought. I suspect Senators Kruse and Baldwin would not approve of your pedagogy……however, as CRT they may not know what that word means, because it is not used on Fox!

  7. Well done. Despite Baldwin’s clumsy walk-back, his comments were not a mistake. Minimizing the horrors of Nazism helps distract students from seeing the parallels with his and his party’s end goal: undemocratic and permanent minority rule of our nation.

    I remember learning a new word some years ago when then Gov. Daniels used it to describe Howard Zinn’s book: A People’s History, which Daniels was trying to get banned in our public universities and high schools. The word was “execrable.” I can think of no better word to describe this awful awful piece of legislation. It’s the worst thing I’ve seen since RFRA under Pence.

  8. Every once in a while, I try to convince my non-Hoosier spouse to “consider” moving to Indiana where I still have family and many close friends. Whenever I do suggest this, she just googles the word “Indiana” and reads about what the State is up to these days. This story popped up over the weekend. I wish your legislators would realize that dumbshit ideas like this bit of legislation really do have consequences even if the bill is never passed – I mean really? Neutrality on the Nazis? Come on Indiana, get it together. RFRA was so bad that I didn’t bring up anything about Indiana for well over a year. I suspect I will put a lid on any “move to Indiana” thoughts for another year or so.

  9. If these so called parents are going to control the schools, then those of us who don’t have children should demand that our participation in the system that pays for the lunacy we see here be discontinued. I have never had a problem paying property taxes to support public schools because it seemed a good idea to have an educated populace. If that’s not the goal of the public schools, why should the rest of us pay for uneducated louts?

  10. Scott Baldwin was also questioned by WTHR back in October about his association with and donation to Oath Keepers. He ‘claimed’ to no longer be associated with them, but he said as little as he felt was needed in order to attempt to convince people he isn’t a Nazi Oath Keeper. When politicians get caught red-handed they don’t hesitate to lie to cover up the truth.

    The WTHR interview was on October 22, 2021 if anyone is interested in reading about his response.

  11. Those who did not go to college to become teachers should NOT tell teachers how and what to teach. The teachers are the experts.

    I suppose the next thing these 2 state reps will try to do is ban Anne Frank’s diary from a school’s curriculum.

    I just hope there are enough elected officials in our state legislature who know better than to pass these 2 bills.

  12. Nancy and as you know and it has been reported that the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, Nazi’s, have refocused their efforts from the National politics to local and they have targeted the school systems. It is clear they have politicians in their pocket from looking at the Bills being produced. Indiana teachers have been attacked by the GOP going on a decade. A career still being made up of mostly women and since women can’t be trusted to do what is necessary the GOP overtly male overlords must keep us in check.

  13. Really, the Germans had a very slow slog towards fascism. Firstly, They went after the teachers, Then they went after the journalists, Then they set their sights on controlling The religious message. Hey, Adolf Hitler went to Catholic school. But he really found a home in certain Protestant teachings about Judaism, Eventually they combined many Protestant churches into the German state sponsored church. Besides being Occultists at the top level of Nazism, Quite a few of their dress medals and propaganda posters prominently displayed the cross.

    Have we seen this in the past decade? Absolutely! Right here in the good old US of A. But the Germans got their ideas For their actions from the United States. There was a huge group of Nazis here called the German Bund. When the United States entered the war they disbanded and went underground, These are part and parcel to the white nationalist movements of today. Also, the use of So called Protestant groups to spread disinformation to mislead the weak-minded and alleviate consciences.

    As I said, history is cyclical. If you really go back and look, and really study many of the Supreme Powers on this planet from the past, You will see a lot of similarities in their downfall. Unfortunately, Those civilizations did not heed the warnings of those who were aware of what was happening. You can see the Nazi Slaughter, ( Night of the long knives) repeated constantly. The Babylonian world power, the Persian world power, the Egyptian world power, The Roman World Power the Greek world power. All shaped by murder, subterfuge, religion and disinformation leading to the collapse of secular society.

    I hate to say it, but the die has been cast already, When people finally realize, when government realizes, that the enemy is Not even on the doorstep, It’s in the house, The battle is already lost.

    I always found King Solomon’s words written in Ecclesiastes 9:11;

    “I returned to see under the sun that the swift do not always win the race, nor the mighty ones the battle, nor do the wise have the food, nor do the understanding ones also have the riches, nor do even those having knowledge have the favor. Why? Because time and unforeseen circumstance befall them all.”

    Also in the book of Ecclesiastes 3:1-12, many quote this it but few know where to find it. It’s not a long read.

  14. Sheila, regarding CRT, I don’t think think that’s quite right. Everyone agrees, at least superficially, that racism is bad. The issue is that teaching that the USA has experienced racism in the past (which casts a pall over the glowing, godly creation of… AMERICA!) and–worse–that racism still exists, casts the USA in an imperfect light. So first, you cannot do that–America is perfect! Second, you cannot acknowledge racism, particularly the systemic variety, because it is evidence of white privilege and gives reason for why many people of colour have struggled in the past and continue to struggle now. That cannot be allowed to be the reason. It must be that white people are harder-working, more godly, and just… better.

    It’s infuriating.

  15. While it’s true that we are all products of extremely complicated organic chemistry, physics and biology, it’s also true that we are mostly defined by culture that we grew up in. Cultures of our family, our times, our communities, our faiths and Faiths, our gender, our talents or lack thereof, so many memories of how people like us act in different situations. That is how the person that people who really know us, know, came to be. To say that is important to each of us is impossible to overstate.

    Cultural anthropology reasons that the evolutionary adaptation that the fact of culture creates is to depower trivial fashion so that the costly lessons that our people have learned over generations are not displaced by trivial and passing fads. That certainly makes the fact of culture’s influence on every one of us very important in the grand scheme of things.

    Those who thought up self government, liberal democracy, based on the philosophy of a culture of their times, referred to as the Era or Age of Enlightenment, reasoned that there ought to be guardrails built in to government that codified the fact that diverse cultures be outside of law, because if law starts either stamping some out or bending in favor of particular cultures, it becomes arbitrarily authoritarian. The fact that they built our Constitution around that largely explains the success of the United States as an immigrant nation that began without much population compared to Europe and China, and imported people from all over to take advantage of bountiful and plenty in natural resources of all kinds.

    Now is seems that most politics takes place outside of those guardrails. That has proven the framers of the Constitution absolutely correct in their reasons for erecting the guardrails.

  16. In mid-nineteenth-century Indiana and neighboring states, proslavery politicians railed against “isms,” too. Back then, it was abolitionism that chiefly raised their ire, one of those radical ideas that long-haired New Englanders spouted. Many northerners were just fine with slavery because it was in the US Constitution. When the slave states seceded from the Union and waged war on the US to protect slavery, many people in Indiana and surrounding states agreed with the rebels.

    Other “isms” at that time that “conservatives” derided were Fourierism (look it up), socialism, and, yes, Methodism.

  17. I misapplied my contribution in re Sheila’s observations today under yesterday’s “Why Judges Matter” blog, for those who want to read it. Musta been due to residual fatigue, having arrived here in Maui yesterday afternoon for ten days of whale watching. Mea culpa!

  18. California (my state) has its share of nut cases at the state legislative level, but I must say that I’m appalled by what intelligent people in Indiana have to endure and by what their children are and aren’t taught. But Scott Baldwin’s idiocy really takes the prize! That is “both sides” at its worst!

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