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Indiana education advocates call school curriculum bill ignorant

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The father of a Black student on Tuesday said a new school curriculum bill would prevent his son from learning his own history.

Marshawn Wolley, who is the president and chief executive officers of an Indianapolis management consulting firm, said he was thrilled the other day to listen to his son tell him everything he had learned about Augusta Savage, a Black sculptor active during the Harlem Renaissance. Wolley said he himself never learned about Savage in school.

“It didn’t denigrate anybody. It didn’t denounce anyone else. It shouldn’t have made anyone else feel bad,” he said. “He got a chance to, like white children do, see himself in history.”

It’s the kind of lesson Wolley says he fears new Indiana legislation would prevent.

Public school advocates gathered a day ahead of a planned hearing on a bill to prohibit educators from teaching that any one race is inherently inferior or superior or that a person or group of people should be treated adversely for that reason. It’s a continuation of last year’s attempt by Republican state lawmakers to prevent teachers from teaching what they term “critical race theory.” The term actually refers to a legal theory involving systemic racism rather than a school curriculum.

A Gallup poll commissioned by the Indiana Department of Education and released on Feb. 1 found 78% of parents approve of what their children are being taught, while 7% said they disapprove. About two-thirds of the latter group said they didn’t know or weren’t sure what subjects or topics were being taught. The survey was conducted in August and September, and gathered responses from 3,042 parents of school-aged children in Indiana.

Opponents say they met with the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jeff Raatz, a Republican from Richmond, on Monday. During that meeting, Raatz told them he plans to amend the bill, which also includes language dealing with gender identity, religion and other topics, to deal solely with race.

The Indianapolis Urban League’s Mark Russell said Raatz’ amendment proposal would only makes the bill even worse. “This amendment now definitely clarifies where Chairman Raatz’s true concerns are,” he said. “Only and solely race or color.”

Public school advocates including Keith Gambill, president of Indiana State Teachers Association, said the measure would prevent students from learning about pivotal events in America’s civil rights history, such as the march in Selma, Alabama, the Stonewall Riot or, further back in history, the role of slavery in causing the Civil War.

Raatz told News 8 in a statement, “My top priority as chair of the Senate’s education committee is to ensure our students are receiving the best possible education. I want our classrooms to be a place where all children can learn and thrive, and we will continue having conversations about the best way to achieve that.”

During hearings in 2022, supporters of school curriculum restrictions pointed to what they said were examples of teachers promoting far-left ideology in class. Wolley says the examples that were cited were cases of bad teaching rather than curriculum problems.

The bill, Senate Bill 386, was originally scheduled for a hearing Wednesday but has since been removed from the agenda. Next Thursday is the deadline for Senate bills to pass committee if they are to remain in consideration for this session.