The Kentucky State Legislature traveled to Frankfurt for the 2022 regular session. Western Kentucky storms, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the redistricting of the state’s congressional districts will not are just a few of the issues lawmakers will debate.
The teaching that Commonwealth students receive in their history lessons is an issue that has received much media attention.
HB 14 and HB 18 were both introduced in the House by Republicans on January 4. According to each bill’s summary, they seek to “ensure that no public school or public charter school provides classroom instruction or discussion that incorporates designated concepts related to race, gender and religion .”
The bills also provide that teachers found guilty of violations may be disciplined until their license is revoked by the Professional Standards Board in Education in accordance with KRS 161.120(1)(l). This states that a license may be revoked due to a violation of any “state law relating to schools or the teaching profession.”
HB 14, the Education Non-Discrimination Act, then outlines the disciplinary action taken if school districts are found to have violated the bill. Parents could file a complaint with the Attorney General if they believe a teacher is in violation. If a violation is found to have occurred after an investigation by the AG, school districts would lose $5,000 a day in state funding for each day the violation continues.
HB 18 extends ban on teaching HB 14 to public universities in the state. The bill states that “no student enrolled in a public post-secondary institution shall be subjected to formal or informal classroom instruction or discussion, or printed or digital materials, including, but not ‘limited therein, textbooks and instructional materials, which promotes any of the following notions.’ It then uses the same language used to prohibit the same teaching in K-12 schools across the state.
The bills seek to suppress uncomfortable conversations and topics surrounding United States history. The fact is that the history of the United States is often uncomfortable. Systemic racism and discrimination have been and still are present in the nation today, whether recognized by law or not.
The “American dream” is perceived as difficult to reach by a large part of the American population. What might once have been possible is no longer possible. Discrimination still prevents people of certain races, genders and religions from having the same opportunities as others. It is because of actions in the nation’s past that this discrimination and inequality persists.
It is said that in order not to repeat history, we must learn from it. HB 14 and HB 18 do not allow this to happen. It will lock Kentucky students into a mindset that the nation is the greatest nation in the world not because of the progress it has made and continues to make, but because the founding values are still exactly the same. than they were in 1776.
This is simply not the case, and any educated member of American society – especially those in elected office at any level – should be able to recognize that.
While the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution to promote freedom and equality, it took amendments to that same document to outlaw slavery, allow African-American men to vote, and allow women to vote. Freedom and freedom are an ever-changing and evolving set of ideals, but we cannot recognize how far the nation has come without recognizing what required that change to happen in the first place.
Moreover, isn’t it also the aim of the school to make young people fulfilled citizens? How can this happen if they don’t have all the facts? How can this happen if portions of American history are ignored so that students and their parents can be “comforted”?
If these bills were to pass, Kentucky’s youth would no longer be equipped to face the harsh realities of their future. If “uncomfortable” discussions cannot take place in the safety of the classroom, where can they take place?
Kentucky schools, from kindergarten to college, are creating the leaders who will guide the state, the nation, and the world toward a better future, whatever that may look like. Choosing to ignore the history that undoubtedly made the United States of America what it is today for convenience does not create leaders capable of making informed decisions.
Instead of choosing to ignore history for the convenience of the privileged few, the Kentucky State Legislature should create requirements for more civics. I’ve always been considered a bit odd because of my love of government and politics, simply because other people my age haven’t learned the importance and necessity of civic engagement.
This type of civic education combined with a comprehensive historical education will allow young people to form their own ideas and motivate them to put them into practice. Encouraging democratic participation will create a government that is more representative of society as a whole.
The complexities of American government are what have provided a model for democracies around the world. They are what made America the beacon of hope and democracy it was meant to be. Emphasizing the importance of voting and other forms of civic engagement for young people will create a more civic and civic-minded Kentucky that can serve as an example to the nation and the world.
If the Kentucky State Legislature feels any responsibility to prepare Commonwealth students for the future, it cannot pass this bill. We cannot erase the history where racism and sexism have been driving forces to impede the democratic progress of this nation.
If this Commonwealth is to do its part to live up to the noble charge of “forming a more perfect union”, uncomfortable conversations must take place. “Growing pains” aren’t called pains because they’re easy. In order to create a free society for all, we must learn from past mistakes, not shield future Kentucky leaders from the truth.
Commentator Price Wilborn can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @pricewilborn.