Both Sides or Not At All: Iowa Republican’s Bill Targets Current Event Discussion in School

Iowa Rep. Sandy Salmon wants history and social study teachers to teach both sides of any issue deemed controversial—or, just don’t teach it at all.

The Republican from Janesville introduced a bill Thursday she thinks will provide Iowa students a “nonpartisan education.”

Under Salmon’s proposal, teachers can’t be asked by any state agency, school district, or school administrator to “discuss current events or widely debated and currently controversial issues of public policy or social affairs.” If teachers choose to talk about any of those issues, they would have to do it from “diverse and disparate perspectives.”

Salmon’s bill also allows teachers to avoid teaching about systemic racism or gender identity if they disagree with either topic on religious or philosophical grounds.

“A teacher shall not be compelled by a policy of any state agency, school district, or school administration to affirm a belief in the so-called systemic nature of racism, or like ideas, or in the so-called multiplicity or fluidity of gender identities, or like ideas, against the teacher’s sincerely held religious or philosophical convictions,” the bill reads.

The bill also prohibits school districts from allowing students to receive credit or a grade if the student works with or is affiliated with an organization that lobbies for legislation at the local, state, or federal level, or if the organization is involved in social or public policy advocacy.

The legislation also prohibits districts from making students get involved with any organization that performs lobbying or advocacy work.

Additionally, school districts would not be allowed to accept money from a private person or private source if the donor intends to distribute materials that would influence instruction in civics, history, social studies, or any like course.

This part of the bill seems to be an indirect shot at projects such as the 1619 Freedom School in Waterloo. The free, after-school program was launched this year by Waterloo native and Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones.

The 1619 Freedom School provides students with literacy help while centering the Black experience in the curriculum. While the Freedom School does not provide direct funding to the Waterloo School District, it works with the district to identify students in need of literacy support.

Salmon’s district is partially located in Black Hawk County, where Waterloo is located.

 

by Ty Rushing
01/20/22

3 Comments on "Both Sides or Not At All: Iowa Republican’s Bill Targets Current Event Discussion in School"

  • Hi, I would like some clarification on a paragraph in here.

    “ The bill also prohibits school districts from allowing students to receive credit or a grade if the student works with or is affiliated with an organization that lobbies for legislation at the local, state, or federal level, or if the organization is involved in social or public policy advocacy.”

    What does this mean? On first reading it sounds like a direct first amendment violation. Does this mean that if a student volunteers for a political campaign, that student cannot receive any credit for any social studies class? Or is it specifically if a student works for or volunteers for a group that is sponsoring a part of the curriculum?

    Thanks!

  • So what might this bill mean for Ag in the Classroom programs that are clearly designed to paint a very rosy picture of industrial agriculture, including CAFOs? There’s a reason why Big Ag groups are funding these classroom lessons, especially the very conservative Iowa Farm Bureau.

    If this weird bill ever becomes law, and I really hope it won’t, the silver lining will be a major opportunity for animal rights groups and environmental groups to get more classroom access. Be careful what you wish for, Iowa Big Ag.

  • This bill’s rhetoric seems to be the product of a right wing interest group.
    I suspect this type of bill happens when legislators simply serve as conduits rather than think for themselves.

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