Another viewpoint: They shout ‘Freedom!’ yet fear freedom for all

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(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star

Most are afraid to say it, but so-called “anti-woke” legislation is driven by fear.

A fear nestled deep inside those who possess the most privilege and power in our nation. It’s no secret who they are, or of what they are so afraid. Systems set in place since the founding of our country are starting to crumble, allowing other schools of thought and ideas into the mainstream.

It’s a fear that their control is waning, that historically marginalized groups may cut into their influence, may want equal treatment, and are inching closer and closer to getting it.

A fear they will no longer hold enough power over others, that diverse ideas and discourse will replace established inequitable and discriminatory systems.

Nationally, it seems potential 2024 presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is leading the charge, most notably at the moment by refusing to allow an Advanced Placement African American Studies course to be taught in Florida high schools.

In Indiana last year, legislators introduced House Bill 1134, a so-called “divisive concepts” bill which eventually failed. On Feb. 14, a new bill, Senate Bill 386, authored by Richmond Republican Sen. Jeff Raatz, prompted a Statehouse news conference. The bill would limit classroom discussions about race, among other topics, reported the Indiana Capital Chronicle.

It was scheduled to be heard in the Senate Education Committee on Feb. 15 but was pulled from the agenda late the night before. But there is no sign Republican legislators in Indiana are going to stop pushing these types of bills.

Just the possibility this legislation could become law increases pressure on would-be and current educators.

Those efforts to limit instruction have led to “one of the more potentially significant and, I think, ugly and damaging periods of attack on the teaching profession, particularly for social studies instruction,” Dan Clark, coordinator of Indiana State University’s Social Science Education program, told reporter Sue Loughlin.

“We never instruct [ISU] students to ‘indoctrinate’ in such lessons. The whole purpose is to help their [future] students learn how to research, form and defend their reasoned opinion,” Clark said.

Why would anyone want to prevent students from learning how to defend reasoned opinions? Why would we want to silence new voices and ideas?

Luckily educators like Marie Theisz are up for the fight of protecting such rights. A social studies teacher at Terre Haute North Vigo High School, she has posted on her bulletin board a sign that reads: “I have the courage to teach hard history.”

At Sarah Scott Middle School, principal Scotia Brown says they don’t shy away from tough discussions. “We’re taking racism head on,” she says.

Throughout the school during the month of February are displays of notable figures in Black history, including NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, reported Loughlin. A school banner showing a clenched fist reads, “Racism has no place here.”

At Indiana University, Alexander Cuenca, program coordinator for middle/ secondary social studies education, says his students are excited about and committed to teaching these subjects. “It’s no longer a surprise that teaching has been used and social studies has been used as kind of a political weapon.”

An unnecessary weapon, driven by fear, that has been allowed to play out over the land of the free and the home of the brave.

As evident as it is that the establishment won’t give up their fight easily, it’s also becoming clear that there are others standing up for their own definitions of freedom – and ultimately the truth.

It would benefit us all, and our children, if we stood up behind them.