An Indiana state senator has clarified his comments after he faced criticism for saying teachers must be “impartial” when discussing Nazism and other political ideologies.
Republican Sen. Scott Baldwin told The Indianapolis Star he should have chosen better words when he said during a committee hearing at the Indiana Statehouse Wednesday that a bill he filed would require teachers to be impartial in all of their teaching, including during lessons about Nazism, Marxism and fascism.
The Republican-backed bill would require all school curricula to be posted online for parental review and ban schools’ ability to implement concepts such as critical race theory.
During testimony on the bill, Fishers High School history teacher Matt Bockenfeld raised concerns about what the proposal would require of educators.
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“For example, it’s the second semester of U.S. history, so we’re learning about the rise of fascism and the rise of Nazism right now,” Bockenfeld said. “And I’m just not neutral on the political ideology of fascism. We condemn it, and we condemn it in full, and I tell my students the purpose, in a democracy, of understanding the traits of fascism is so that we can recognize it and we can combat it.”
Bockenfeld said while teachers are “neutral on political issues of the day,” he was afraid the bill would require neutrality on all topics.
Baldwin said that interpretation of the bill may be going too far, however, noting that he doesn’t discredit Marxism, Nazism, fascism or “any of those isms out there.”
“I have no problem with the education system providing instruction on the existence of those isms,” he said. “I believe that we’ve gone too far when we take a position on those isms ... We need to be impartial.”
Baldwin added that teachers should “just provide the facts," and that it's not a teacher's role to “determine how that child should think.”
In an email to the newspaper Thursday, Baldwin said his intent with the bill was to ensure teachers are being impartial when discussing “legitimate political groups" and “political parties within the legal American political system.”
“In my comments during committee, I was thinking more about the big picture and trying to say that we should not tell kids what to think about politics," Baldwin said. “Nazism, Marxism and fascism are a stain on our world history and should be regarded as such, and I failed to adequately articulate that in my comments during the meeting. I believe that kids should learn about these horrible events in history so that we don’t experience them again in humanity.”
Bockenfeld said Baldwin has since reached out to him and asked him to help work on the bill's language.