Written testimony for today's House K-12 Subcommittee Meeting on H. 3728
The following is closely adapted from an email to the House K-12 Subcommittee, which is meeting today to discuss the censorship bill H. 3728. If you have time to support intellectual freedom in education, please submit testimony to email@example.com. The subcommittee is meeting as soon as the Education and Public Works Committee adjourns. You can read the bill in full here. You can also read more about how the “SC Freedom Caucus” interpreted some of the included language in its lawsuit against Lexington School District One here. We know where this is headed: teachers in Florida are currently hiding and removing all books from their classrooms for fear of being charged with a felony.
Members of the Subcommittee, and sponsors of H. 3728,
I am writing to oppose H. 3728 as currently written.
These written remarks will be brief, because I am a public high school English teacher and since finding out about this hearing last night, I have had little time to write anything or get my thoughts together. As with similar legislation last year, I would ask that there be public hearings scheduled on this bill, if it is to move forward, during times when the average parent, student, and teacher is able to attend. That said, thank you for accepting written testimony.
I’m sure others who have had more time to digest the bill will have more to say than I will, but the part of the bill that has particularly attracted my attention is the recapitulation of SC Budget Proviso 1.93. While proponents of this bill will likely claim that this language is intended only to prevent “indoctrination” or “coercion” of students, that is plainly not the way at least one of the bill sponsors, Representative Morgan, interprets the language. His group, the SC Freedom Caucus, has sued Lexington School District One on the basis of an alleged— but unfounded— violation of 1.93, and in its complaint the group has demonstrated a much more expansive reading of the proviso that potentially outlaws concepts and books simply because the Freedom Caucus and others don’t like them.
In the midst of a literally historic teacher shortage, and with so many real problems plaguing both the teaching profession and the everyday lives of the nearly 800,000 students served by public schools, supporting censorship, specifically censorship of discussions around race and gender, is a tragic mistake. One day, we will likely look back on these times as we once looked back on 1973— the year a school board member burned copies of a Kurt Vonnegut book in a school furnace— or on the histories of countless repressive political movements that began with the banning of books and the policing of ideas.
I teach many LGBTQ+ students. Schools did not make them the way they are any more than schools made straight or cisgender children the way they are. I teach many students of color who have experienced systemic discrimination, who have been told to ignore that in order of a promised reward from “meritocracy” that takes the form of racially-biased standardized tests. These students are real, and their reality cannot be abolished, but by limiting discussions of texts, ideas, and history that they see as relevant, we are in real danger of making many of them feel further disenfranchised from the school system and from society.
One of the authors targeted for censorship by members of the Freedom Caucus, and by members of some of the groups which will be visiting the State House today during your subcommittee meeting, is Jason Reynolds, an author who means a lot to many of my students. I would strongly encourage the subcommittee members to watch Reynolds’ interview with Trevor Noah, in which Reynolds explains why he, now a published and celebrated author, never finished a novel until he was seventeen years old. (Here is a relevant clip; the longer interview is also available here.) I have personally witnessed many reluctant readers picking up his books.
It’s okay not to agree with everything you read. In fact, that’s what school is for. And if the proposed bill were really intended just to ensure that no partisan viewpoint were taught as if it were the only choice, and not as part of a larger discussion, I would be happy to support the bill. The past actions of those who are introducing it, however, show that this is not the case.
Thank you for your time and attention.
Steve, thanks for the letter and information. I am blasting it out as much as I can at this point through Facebook channels. I'll also try Twitter as well. Thanks again for keeping us informed.
Thank you for this. I’ve just sent my testimony.