A right-wing Indiana state senator has backtracked on his shocking instructions to a history teacher during a legislative hearing this week not to criticize Nazism or fascism to his students.
During the hearing Wednesday, teacher Matt Bockenfeld noted that his class was “learning about the rise of fascism and the rise of Nazism right now,” adding: “I’m just not neutral on the political ideology of fascism. We condemn it, and we condemn it in full.”
The purpose, he said, is to help students “recognize it and combat it. That is why we learn: To use history to make a better world.”
Republican Sen. Scott Baldwin responded: “We need to be impartial.” He also said he wasn’t “discrediting” Nazism.
Baldwin emphasized that it’s fine to discuss the existence of the “isms,” like fascism and Nazism. But “we’ve gone too far when we take a position on those ‘isms,’” he told Bockenfeld. “We need to be the purveyors of reason. We just provide the facts.”
After a furious backlash, however, Baldwin amended his comments on Thursday to the Indy Star.
“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,” he said.
Baldwin uttered his jaw-dropping instruction at a legislative hearing on state Senate Bill 167, which would require schools to form committees including parents to review all curricula. It would also prohibit schools from teaching a variety of concepts related to sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color and national origin as part of an assault on critical race theory.
The direction is similar to what has happened in Texas, where the state legislature last year dropped a requirement that students be taught that the white supremacist terror campaign of assault and murder by the Ku Klux Klan was “morally wrong.”
Bockenfeld tweeted that he was concerned the Indiana bill would mean a teacher could be reprimanded for “encouraging students to be mortified by ideologies like white supremacy.”
He added after posting Baldwin’s remarks: “My worst fears were confirmed.”
But I was concerned with one passage, about teachers being banned from promoting certain emotional reactions from kids. My concern is that this is so broad that, in theory, a teacher could be reprimanded for encouraging students to be mortified by ideologies like white supremacy pic.twitter.com/0m8hYzhck3— Matt Bockenfeld (@MrBTheTeach) January 6, 2022
I hoped that I was wrong, but instead my fears were confirmed.
Here is a sitting senator insisting teachers can only “provide instruction on the existence” of Nazism, but “we’ve gone too far when we take a position on” it pic.twitter.com/VJfKAuOFXX— Matt Bockenfeld (@MrBTheTeach) January 6, 2022
Is 2022 really the year that we’ll punish teachers, maybe even strip them of their license, for opposing hateful ideologies?
Democracy is not value-neutral. Teachers cannot just mindlessly provide trivia facts about Nazism but attach no moral judgement to it— Matt Bockenfeld (@MrBTheTeach) January 6, 2022