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By Nigel Lisbon
The Indiana General Assembly’s attack on schools made national news this month after Scott Baldwin, fascist author of Senate Bill 167, said during public comment on the bill that teachers should be “impartial” when teaching students about the horrors of fascism.
Baldwin’s comments came in response to a teacher who spoke out against the bill. That teacher said in part, “[Teachers] don’t stand up and say who we voted for, or anything like that. But we’re not neutral on Nazism. We take a stand in the classroom against it, and it matters that we do.”
Baldwin replied, “Nazism, fascism, I’m not discrediting any of those ‘isms’ out there, and I have no problem with the education system providing instruction on the existence of those ‘isms.’ I believe that we’ve gone too far when we take a position on those ‘isms’ as it relates to— We need to be impartial.” These comments led to massive uproar that resulted in his bill being pulled, announced late today by Roderic Bray, Senate President Pro Tem.
Attack on schools far-reaching, grave threat remains
Although SB 167 has been pulled, a grave threat remains to Indiana schools, students and teachers alike. House Bill 1134, which passed out of the education committee with a “do pass” recommendation, is functionally identical to SB 167. Its passage out of committee means that teachers, school workers, students, families, administrators, and community members must organize rapidly to defeat the bill. Its passage would cause a massive worker exodus from a sector already suffering heavily from worker shortages, a death knell for public education.
This bill would mandate schools establish a “curricular materials advisory committee” made up of 60% parents of students in the school district (regardless of custody status, and with a provision that not more than 50% of these parents may be employed by the school district), and the other 40% teachers, administrators, or “members of the community.” This committee, far from being “advisory,” would exercise total control over school “curricular materials and educational activities to ensure that the material and activities are representative of the community’s interests” despite meeting only twice a year to do so.
This is a clear attempt to deepen the far-right attack on education at the local level that was directed in 2021 at school boards, including raucous school board meetings in nearby Carmel. Its intent would be to solidify far-right control over education amid an upswing in anti-racist, LGBTQ-accepting study and learning. Providing a state-endorsed avenue for these right-wing forces to crystallize in is exceptionally dangerous and must be fought militantly and diligently.
Danger of fascism serious, but can be fought by broad united front
The Party for Socialism and Liberation does not use the label “fascist” to describe State Senator Scott Baldwin lightly. Baldwin was outed last year as a paid annual member of the fascist militia Oath Keepers, whose leadership was charged this week with seditious conspiracy for their roles in the Capitol riot. His outrageous comments and fascist ties were enough to sink SB 167, but identical legislation continues apace and must be fought against just as resolutely.
The same kind of broad networks that led to SB 167’s demise can defeat fascism. A nascent united front already exists, composed of teachers, students, school workers, administrators, families, community advocates, union organizers, and some businesses, and must continue to amplify pressure on the General Assembly not to proceed with its assault on Indiana schools even after the defeat of SB 167. All avenues of resistance should be discussed and employed by local networks: phone zaps of legislators’ offices, sit-ins of the State House, getting local print and broadcast media aware and involved, picketing at legislators’ homes or businesses.
Even the act of walking out, which Indiana teachers have historically not taken, would powerfully symbolize what will happen to our state’s schools if these bills pass. The time to build networks of solidarity and resistance is here. The time for radical action to save Indiana schools is now!