STOP SB 1532 for the best interest of Students and Educators
Senate Bill 1532 goes against everything that we stand for in public education. This bill in its current form, would penalize educators for teaching facts, require them to teach conspiracy theories and ultimately stifle critical conversations with our students. Why would a teacher address historical issues around race and ethnicity, knowing that they could be charged with breaking this law if they also did not include the perspectives of avowed racists as valid?
Slavery in the U.S., the Holocaust in Europe and even the last presidential election are topics our schools should teach. Requiring equal time to “both-sides” is not what Arizona parents are expecting or asking for our teachers to do in our classrooms. And yet, there are people who maintain that slavery might not have been equally bad for everyone, or the Holocaust never happened. We have heard a number of different theories about the 2020 election that are demonstrably untrue. These are not legitimate disagreements, they are falsehoods. They should not be in our schools.
School districts research and adopt curriculum materials and our local school boards approve these decisions. Quality materials are built around historical facts and shed light on multiple perspectives. Counter-narratives and experiences are incorporated in professionally developed textbooks, and are required within the Arizona state standards, which must drive instruction in every public school in our state. It is the responsibility and duty of our local school boards to assure that our community’s values and perspectives are present at the local classroom level. It is also the responsibility and duty of our local school boards to adopt policy that assures teachers are evaluated and accountable for following adopted curriculum and state standards. A law such as SB 1532 is a political weapon. It takes local control away from duly elected school board members, and empowers extremists to circumvent this process to intimidate, harass, and ultimately push teachers out of our classrooms for good.
SB 1532 assumes educators are indoctrinators of adolescents, forcing youth to adopt political values which places them at odds with their family values. This is not only false, but ignores that adolescents especially are naturally curious about differing perspectives, from various influences outside of the home, as they understand the world around them and strive for age appropriate identity development. SB1532 also ignores what professional educators understand about adolescent development. If students cannot explore perspectives at school where they are safe to practice critical thinking skills under the guidance of educators, parents, and other trusted adults, they will not stop looking on their own and could be exposed to information that is harmful without proper guidance. Stifling this process will lead to identity confusion for children, creating harm as they transition into adulthood. School helps students navigate their own personal thought processes. Nothing more.
Most teachers enter the profession because 1) they see it as a calling or vocation and 2) they are passionate about their subject matter. Arizona has a dramatic teacher shortage and History and Social Studies teachers who have pursued college degrees and teacher certification will find it easier to walk away than be threatened by fines for promoting class discussion and critical thinking. The best teachers challenge students to think beyond assumptions, this will forever change the dynamic between teacher and student in the classroom and Arizona's students will pay the price.
We encourage the Arizona State Legislature to stop further consideration of Senate Bill 1532 and the eleventh-hour additions. We encourage Governor Doug Ducey to veto this bill if presented with these requirements that are intended to intimidate teachers and stop them from teaching critical thinking skills rather than empower them to engage our students in learning about our history and the world they are inheriting.