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House Bill 312, the Divisive Concepts Act, passed the House and advanced in the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday but is facing problems in the Senate Caucus.
This bill bans the instilling of nine “divisive concepts” in schools and government training. Forbidden ideas include: “That one race, sex, or religion is inherently superior to another race, sex, or religion,” that Alabama or “the United States are inherently racist or sexist,” or “that any individual should be asked to accept, acknowledge, affirm, or assent to a sense of guilt, or a need to work harder solely on the basis of his or her race or sex.”
The intention of this act is good, but it makes me feel leery, and I think many voters among younger generations may oppose the bill entirely, for three main reasons.
First, Millennials decry the censorship of emotional expression, and this act seems to ban the discussion of subjective experiences surrounding race and gender. Second, we do not like to be controlled, particularly by our parents’ generation, and supporters of this bill seem more supportive of parental rights than the wants and needs of children. Third, my generation is incredibly frustrated by the education system as a whole but may wonder if this act will even accomplish anything.
Many Millennials will likely consider this bill censorship. You may find our opposition to censorship ironic, since we’re known for wanting to control what other people say and think and have destroyed many through cancel culture. Our standard is actually consistent when boiled down to its simple tenets. Younger generations don’t base decisions upon hard rules like constitutional rights but on personal emotional safety. “Don’t control me (particularly my emotions). I will control myself, even if doing so means controlling you.”
Does teaching critical race theory make Black teachers feel heard? Then how dare you censor it! Does teaching Christianity make gay children feel rejected? Then we must censor that!
House Bill 312 does not actually censor the teaching of divisive concepts, specifically stating that such ideas may be taught “in an objective manner and without endorsement as part of a larger course of academic instruction … provided the institution or employee does not compel students to assent to the concept.”
But to the Millennial, that might as well be complete censorship, since the whole point of discussing race and gender is to compel others to empathize with you, thus finding peace in your own struggles.
The second concerning element of this bill is that it seems to emphasize the ability of parents to teach their children only what they want them to learn. Children are not their parents’ property. But both sides seem to treat children as a blank page on which we can write what we want; liberals want to brainwash children into woke warriors, and Christian conservatives have been accused of doing similarly. The leading question in developing curriculum should not be, “How can I make my child a clone of myself?”
I will never deny that parents, not the government or educators, should decide what is best for a child. But this can be taken too far, and often is, resulting in situations where parents will never admit a child has the right to learn something their parents dislike. Are you crying for the right to decide what’s best for your child or for the right to control what your child thinks? The first right exists, and should be protected; the second does not. You may disagree with critical race theory, but does that mean you should prevent your children from hearing the personal reasons why people believe it?
My parents and school prepared me extremely well to respond to ideas like evolution and atheism, which we opposed. We practiced formal debate, arguing for different ideas to better understand the mindset and to enlarge our capacity for critical thinking. This approach was invaluable to me, but I wish I had been prepared for the emotional violence of race and gender arguments in the same way.
By banning differing concepts, especially in higher grades like high school, we actually inhibit the ability of children and young adults to respond to opposing ideas. Do we want to raise safe and happy fools who are like us? Or dangerous, wise thought leaders, who may sometimes disagree with us?
Finally, will the Divisive Concepts Act even work? This bill may end up establishing an endless pattern similar to how Executive Orders are signed into and out of law with each switch in administration. Will we have to make a new act for every disagreeable idea liberals shove into our education system? There is a reason conservatives have long opposed purely top-down enforcement methods.
Further, is this bill really the fix we need right now? More school children are committing suicide now than at any point in history. Student debt and unemployment of young adults continue to climb. Yet this is what you decide to focus on? The legislature has hastily erected one levee, and it will not stem the tsunami of liberal ideology and parental disengagement, let alone any other educational problems.
Meanwhile, school choice has been shoved into a stasis chamber. It’s a lot easier for the legislature and parents to forbid a checklist of ideas than to enact a long-term plan that requires hard work, money and individual responsibility. The latter is what we truly need.
No, I don’t want my little sisters or my future children brainwashed into thinking they’re evil because of their gender or the color of their skin. And younger generations need to learn to let go of some of the emotions that entangle our views of childhood and education. But we need a more insightful and longer-term approach to our country’s ideological war than the Divisive Concepts Act.
Caylah Coffeen is the host of Prayers For Life Radio in Huntsville, and a millennial who speaks up for truth and a future as bright as the stars. Her column appears every Friday in 1819 News. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.