Opinion | Speech crackdowns in schools in Texas, Florida and more are taking a toll on education
PEN America reports that “educational gags” (laws restricting discussion and education in schools and colleges) are much more common across the country. More than 130 bills have been introduced in 36 states this year, mostly related to content related to race, gender and LGBTQ identity. Notably, many of these proposals include severe penalties such as loss of funds and fines for institutions, dismissals for teachers, and even criminal charges. Republican lawmakers are behind most of these plans. Only one proposal tracked by PEN America had a Democratic sponsor.
In the last two years, nearly 20 bills have been passed, including Florida’s infamous Parents’ Rights in Education Act. The law, dubbed by critics as a “don’t say gay” law, prohibits schools from teaching topics related to gender identity and sexuality to her students through third grade. It spurred national vigilance, but it was just one example of a multistate trend.
School libraries have become a particular flashpoint. Several New policies at both the state and school district levels make it easier to dispute a book and require school districts to provide parents with a list of all new purchases. These are on top of an unprecedented wave of book bans, documenting more than 700 objections to school, library and university materials in 2021 and over 1,500 publications (mostly Black and LGBTQ authors). by ).
Of course, not all content is suitable for all ages and parents play an important role in education. However, when taken together, these efforts make the school very atrophied. Rules are often vaguely written and rarely include a detailed review process, motivating educators to avoid material that may contain politically-controversial subjects. attached.
Students are also deprived of important opportunities to learn about society and reflect their diverse identities and experiences in the classroom. According to a recent RAND survey, 1 in 4 of her teachers have been told by school or district officials to limit discussions about race or racism. U.S. history is also a frequent target of state legislators and school boards eager to promote a sanitized version of the nation’s past.
Education should be about presenting students with challenging ideas and providing them with the tools to confront and engage with these concepts in thoughtful ways. The rise of policies that silence teachers and cheat curricula is harming schools, students, and ultimately democracy.