Tag Archives: Don’t Say Gay

What Did You Learn In School Today?

As Hoosiers anticipate the upcoming session of the General Assembly–an anticipation tinged with trepidation for many of us– we would do well to focus on the harms our Lords and Masters at the Statehouse intend to visit on public education this year.

This will be a budget year, and education is a huge part of that budget. I should note that, despite the pious concerns about taxes and spending voiced by Republican legislators each year, Indiana lawmakers have thrown millions of dollars into efforts to privatize education via the country’s largest voucher program, sending those dollars primarily to religious schools while routinely shortchanging the needs of our public schools.

According to the Indiana Capital Chronicle, the state is currently short 2300 teachers, a shortage undoubtedly exacerbated by inadequate pay levels and the legislature’s obvious disdain for the profession, demonstrated by its persistent efforts to dictate what can and cannot be taught in the classroom. In the upcoming session, a don’t say gay bill will be introduced, along with one purporting to keep Critical Race Theory out of the classroom. (The fact that actual CRT has never been in the classroom is irrelevant to the culture warriors, most of whom couldn’t tell you what it is if their lives depended on it.)

Classroom teachers and school board members I’ve talked to are exhausted by the constant assaults by Rightwing parents–the uninformed demands that they teach (or omit) certain materials,  efforts to ban books or remove them from school libraries, and hysterical accusations about education perceived to be “woke.” These high-decibel accusations are front-page news, despite the fact that–according to research–the great majority of Americans who actually have children in the public schools are satisfied with the education those children are receiving.

The harassment of teachers and school board members has little to do with what actually goes on in the nation’s classrooms; instead, it is one of the more visible battlefronts in the GOP’s culture war.

The linked study, done by Pew prior to the midterm elections, underscores the fundamentally partisan nature of the assault.

As the midterm election approaches, issues related to K-12 schools have become deeply polarized. Republican and Democratic parents of K-12 students have widely different views on what their children should learn at school about gender identity, slavery and other topics, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

They also offer different assessments of the influence parents, local school boards and other key players have on what public K-12 schools in their area are teaching. Republican parents with children in K-12 schools are about twice as likely as Democratic parents to say parents don’t have enough influence (44% vs. 23%, including those who lean to each party). And Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say school boards have too much influence (30% vs. 17%). These parents also differ over the amount of input they personally have when it comes to what their own children are learning in school.

At the same time, Republican and Democratic parents – including those with children in public schools – are equally likely to say they are extremely or very satisfied with the quality of the education their children are receiving (58% each) and that the teachers and administrators at their children’s schools have values that are similar to their own (54% each).

The large differences between what Republican and Democratic parents believe their children should learn are illuminating.

When it comes to what their children are learning in school, U.S. parents of K-12 students are divided over what they think their children should learn about gender identity: 31% say they would prefer that their children learn that whether someone is a boy or a girl is determined by the sex they were assigned at birth, and the same share say they’d rather their children learn that someone can be a boy or a girl even if that’s different from their sex at birth. A 37% plurality say their children shouldn’t learn about this in school.

There is also no consensus when it comes to what parents want their children to learn about slavery: 49% say they would prefer that their children learn that the legacy of slavery still affects the position of Black people in American society today, while a smaller but sizable share (42%) would prefer that their children learn that slavery is part of American history but doesn’t affect the position of Black people in American society today.

The self-appointed education experts in Indiana’s General Assembly should take note of another Pew finding: more parents say that state and federal governments have too much influence on what goes on in the classroom–and complain that teachers and principals don’t have enough.

Perhaps if legislators respected teachers–and compensated them accordingly–we wouldn’t be frantically searching for 2300 more of them.

Indiana Legislators Don’t Care What You Want…Or Don’t

The Indiana Capital Chronicle is one of a handful of new media sites trying to fill the dangerous void in news about local and state government. (As I frequently complain on this site, so-called “legacy media” like the Indianapolis Star have emptied their newsrooms of reporters as they’ve focused on cutting costs at the expense of real journalism. The result has been a news desert when it comes to informing citizens about their state and local governments.)

A recent column in The Capital Chronicle focused on what is perhaps the most annoying characteristic of Indiana’s General Assembly–its pursuit of legislation untethered to the needs or desires of Hoosier constituents.

As the columnist began;

My Christmas wish is pretty simple: I would like lawmakers to listen to what Hoosiers want. ALL Hoosiers, not just the loudest slice of their Republican constituents.

Poll after poll and survey after survey shows what Indiana residents are worried about, and what they aren’t.

Bellwether Research’s latest poll in early December surveyed 1,100 Hoosiers representing both the demographic and geographic layout of Indiana. It asked about their top priorities.

Wishes one and two were lowering health care costs and affordable housing, at 31% and 21% respectively….Next up was increasing K-12 education funding at 17%. Nothing after is in double digits

As Hoosier lawmakers prepare for the upcoming session, however, they are signaling their preoccupation with culture-war issues. Some are focusing on restricting dissemination of abortion pills through the mail; according to the polling, exactly 3% of Hoosiers care about restricting access to mailed abortion pills. (Quite the contrary: according to the article, the GOP’s own internal polling reveals that a solid majority supports abortion rights, and a survey by Ball State found that 56% of Hoosiers believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.)

That poll also found that 56% of Hoosiers believe marijuana should be legal for personal use and 29% for medicinal purposes. Only 15% say it should not be legal…

Surveys also find only 6% of Hoosiers making oversight of K-12 curriculum a top concern, but the “usual suspects” in the Indiana Statehouse are busy preparing bills to combat “critical race theory,” which is not only not being taught, but is a rather rarified field of research into American legal systems pursued by a subset of law professors. Use of the terminology is not only inaccurate, it is intentionally misleading–a none-too-subtle “dog whistle” to White supremicists who want teachers to ignore certain aspects of the national story.

And of course, it wouldn’t be Indiana if our legislature failed to pick on LGBTQ Hoosiers. House Education Chairman Robert Behning has promised introduction of a “don’t say gay” bill–demonstrating that Indiana lawmakers aren’t intimidated by that pesky court ruling that found Florida’s “Don’t say gay” bill unconstitutional.

Most lawmakers send out constituent surveys on hot topics that they know will be coming up. They are clearly less scientific than the polls I have mentioned but even when legislators directly hear from their most engaged constituents they ignore the results.

Remember gun licensing from earlier this year? Not a single survey — that journalists could find — supported abandoning the carry permit. In fact they almost all said to keep the system as-is. But legislators tossed the licensing out with the bathwater — against advice of the Indiana State Police superintendent and the majority of law enforcement groups.

Growing up I was always told, “be careful what you ask for.” It seems lately the phrase for Hoosiers should shift to, “be careful what you DON’T ask for,” because you are increasingly more likely to get it.

The disconnect between what Hoosiers want and what we get from our lawmakers is a direct result of gerrymandering that produces safe seats and allow lawmakers to ignore the policy preferences of a majority of Indiana citizens.

Gerrymandering, after all, is the very best voter suppression tactic. Why bother to vote when the result has been foreordained–or, to use Trump language, when the election has been rigged? Gerrymandering amplifies the power of the fringes–the ideologues and culture warriors who vote in primaries–and effectively disenfranchises the rest of us.

Reporting on the antics at the Statehouse is one of the very few checks on lawmakers bent on pursing their own cultural fixations, and central Indiana has been ill-served by the Star’s devolution into sports and what has been called the “beer beat”–reports on new watering holes. That makes the arrival of the Indiana Capital Chronicle very welcome. The Chronicle describes itself as an “independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to giving Hoosiers a comprehensive look inside state government, policy and elections.”

It’s probably wishful thinking, but perhaps a “comprehensive look” at what Harrison Ullmann dubbed the World’s Worst Legislature will trigger efforts at reform….