January 7, 2022

Shane Phipps: An open letter to the Indiana legislature regarding pending critical race theory bills

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Indiana is poised to join the list of states passing teacher gag laws. Educator Shane Phipps asks them to reconsider. He starts by considering the list of states that have already joined this “attack on the truth.”

There is only one explanation for why these lawmakers want to do this; they are scared to death that students might become critical thinkers when it comes to their nation and its government. They seem to want their women back in the kitchen and minorities to be kept ignorant of the heroes that gave up so much in their tireless efforts to get America to finally live up to her lofty ideals. In short, they have noticed an increasingly culturally sensitive America full of empowered, engaged, and politically active young minorities and women and it scares them to death because it threatens the very white privilege which they still so steadfastly deny exists. To my way of thinking, this is criminally negligent behavior from elected officials.

And now we have Indiana joining the fray with proposed legislation that could effectively muzzle teachers of U.S. history here in the Hoosier state. It’s getting to the point where I wouldn’t be shocked at all to have it mandated to me to send permission slips home warning parents that I might be teaching about historical events wherein some white people did some things that weren’t very nice and that if they don’t want their children to hear about white people doing not very nice things then they will be provided an alternate assignment.

The fact is that a lot of white people did do some “not so nice things” and a lot of other white people did some really great things. The same can be said of women and men of all races, creeds, and sexual identities past, present, and on into perpetuity. It’s my job (or should be) as a history teacher to help my students sort through it all—the good, the bad, and the ugly—so that they have all the perspectives on history that they need to go forth and make this country a better place for all her citizens. And by the way, teaching the story of America honestly and from all perspectives makes the subject one hell of a lot more interesting.

American history would not make a lick of sense if our constant struggle to include everyone at the table of justice was censored. That struggle—the injustices—the tireless efforts and enormous sacrifices to correct them—the successes and the failures—every step forward and every step back—all of it—makes us who we are, for better and for worse. Right wing legislatures want to keep kids from being exposed to these truths. They want half-truths and outright lies taught in our history classrooms.

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