SD Educators: 'Divisive Concepts' Bill Confusing, Shortchanges Students
Thursday, March 3, 2022
Bills have surfaced in nearly 30 states to crack down on public-school curriculum, with systemic racism as the focal point. Some bans have been adopted, and South Dakota has its own version in the works even as educators voice concerns.
Today, a Senate committee will hear a GOP-led bill to prevent teachers from promoting politically divisive concepts. One example is individuals are inherently responsible for past actions committed by other members of the same race.
Loren Paul, president of the South Dakota Education Association, called the measure troubling in part because the provisions are subjective and lack clarity.
"I believe it will cause a chilling effect on what our educators actually teach in their classroom and take away some of the confidence that an educator may have to teach certain things," Paul asserted.
He contended the state's Code of Ethics already offers a process for dealing with such matters, and the new bill would only add confusion. The association also worried it would harm a student's ability to absorb certain subject matters. Bill supporters say they want to protect students from political indoctrination.
The bill, which recently cleared the House, does not mention Critical Race Theory (CRT), the higher-education concept at the center of recent debate.
Rep. Sue Peterson, R-Sioux Falls, acknowledged CRT is not taught in public schools and argued the bill would not prevent difficult lessons about racism.
"This bill is about balance," Peterson emphasized. "It's about preventing the promotion of racist and political ideas to a captive audience of young students in our public schools."
Paul countered the captive audience does not need the Legislature interfering via the bill.
"That will deny students the opportunity to learn and to ask questions and not just accept everything they hear as fact," Paul stressed.
He also worried it would add to the list of challenges in trying to recruit and retain teachers.
The proposal has seen amendments to win over more lawmaker support. A similar bill also originated in the House as Gov. Kristi Noem pushes for bans to be sent to her desk.
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