Dave Hodges

More About: Education: Government Schools

Sanitizing the Learning Process

Arizona owes a great deal of gratitude to Arizona State Senator, Thayer Verschoor. Verschoor is doing his best to protect Arizona's students from being challenged to develop new perspectives and to be able to debate these perspectives in a classroom setting.

In an unprecedented move, Verschoor, thorugh the sponsorship of his legislation SB 1542, is moving to ban teachers and professors from expressing an opinion on a political issue while in the performance of their instructional duties. Senate Bill 1542 was approved 4-3 in the Senate Government Committee earlier this month. If approved by the full Senate, House and governor, the new law would:

• Forbid public schoolteachers and professors from endorsing or opposing candidates, legislation, court action or social, political or cultural issues of a partisan nature.

• Apply only to instructors in their official capacity.

• Punish offenders with possible suspension, firing, certification revocation or $500 penalty.

• Not apply to students' opinions.

Does this mean that teachers should not speak of the evils of slavery, McCarthyism, the insanity of the Scopes trial and Japanese Relocation during the early days of WWII? Because to do so, may be interpreted as expression of an opinion. With their collective jobs on the line, will teachers actually take the risk of expressing an opinion designed to stimulate critical thinking on the part of their students?

Of course, State Senator Verschoor will be quick to point out that this law does not apply to the classroom expression of student opinions. However, if the teachers cannot play devil's advocate, provide a thesis statement for debate or otherwise provoke the thought processes designed to evoke critical thinking on the part of the learner, students will not likely be challenged to go beyond answering questions at the end of chapter.

On its face, the bill is vague and the identified behaviors are ill-defined (Don't blame a teacher for the obvious lack of literacy skills on display). I would like to propose that State Senator Verschoor be required to pass the writing portion of the AIMS test as a prerequisite to writing anymore unconstitutional legislation.

The bill is entitled "tax credits; STAN account." What does the title of the bill have to with the practice of limiting academic freedom?" It doesn't have anything to do with tax credits!

Verschoor used a strike all amendment to sneak through this legislation because he is obviously trying to silence critics in the most stealth manner possible. The use of such duplicitous and deceptively disguised legislation can only be justified as an attempt to fool the people until it is too late to defeat this unconstitutional legislation!

Perhaps, the people of Arizona should also require the good Senator to score at least a level two of Kohlberg's Morality Test as a precondition to being sworn in. After all, State Senator Jack Harper proposed that all legislators should have to pass a drug test as a prerequisite to holding office. Then why shouldn't we also require a baseline level of literacy skills and honesty from the people we elect?

From where I sit, this is a thinly veiled attempt to silence the debate process which could culminate in the development of potential critics for Senator Verschoor's political positions. Except for the lobbyist calling to set an appointment in order to set a tee time or to make a lunch date with our favorite elected official, it is a good day, at the State Capital when the phone does not ring. There is nothing more dangerous to an authoritarian regime than a populace who has been trained to think and ask questions as a result of the education process. .

To those who would state that this is good idea because it will prevent the "brainwashing" of students by nefarious instructors, I would state that if Nazi Germany had permitted academic freedom, perhaps there would never have been a successful Hitler Youth Movement!

I would like to ask the good Senator if he has ever spoken to a group of students during the course of their school day. Of course, obtaining name recognition, for the good senator, in an election year, would have nothing with his civic commitments, now would it? Unquestionably, I would expect that the good Senator was careful to not express his opinions on any of the issues when speaking to Arizona's students.

If you would like to send a note of thanks to Senator Verschoor for protecting students from thinking and subsequent debating, here is his contact information.

State Senator Thayer Verschoor (R) District 22

Phone Number: (602) 926-4136

Fax Number: (602) 417-3222

Email Address: tverschoor@azleg.gov

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