By Hemant Mehta
Two new bills filed by Arizona legislators could stifle free speech in the classroom and prevent teachers from having honest, open, interesting discussions about some of the most important topics they face.
House Bill 2002, filed by Republican State Rep. Mark Finchem, would prohibit public school teachers from “engaging in political ideological or religious advocacy in their classrooms.”
On the surface, that makes sense. You don’t want Christian teachers proselytizing in the classroom just as you don’t want a U.S. Government teacher telling kids the “right” person to vote for. But there are already rules in place — if applied — to prevent those things. This bill would go further.
For example, it forbids teachers from introducing “any controversial issue that is not germane” to their class. But my high school English and history classes included plenty of discussions about religion and politics and the like. It’s hard to read classic literature or discuss politics without raising those topics. I was fortunate that my teachers played moderators instead of inserting themselves into the debates. That’s what you want from a great educator.
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