“Teaching America’s Principles Act” goes to Senate floor
Thursday, Senate Bill 138, sponsored by Senator Max Wise (R-Campbellsville), was approved by the Senate Education Committee on a 9 to 4 vote.
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – A revised bill passed out of the State Senate Education Committee on Thursday, but not before a lot of debate for and against it.
Senate Bill 138, or the “Teaching America’s Principles” Act, introduced by Senator Max Wise (R-Campbellsville), draws upon 24 historical documents and speeches by important historical figures as the foundation for teaching civics and history in Kentucky classrooms.
“Let’s season our state’s academic standards with American principles, and encourage teachers to help explore original core documents, analyze current issues, and develop as the next generation of Kentucky citizens,” said Senator Wise.
According to Senator Wise, the curriculum’s instruction on controversial topics, like race and gender, would be non-discriminatory, and appropriate to age and grade level. However, some say they’re concerned about some of the documents included in the curriculum, with particular objection drawn towards the inclusion of a speech by President Ronald Reagan, which endorses Barry Goldwater.
“Why we’ve chosen a political speech that glorifies Barry Goldwater is a little bit beyond me. Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights bill and he was against school integration,” said Lucy Waterbury, a Fayette County Schools parent.
Concern was also drawn regarding what was excluded from the bill’s proposed modules.
“Ignoring the past or only telling partial truth does a disservice to everyone. It’s an injustice to those whose stories are being forgotten or falsified, and it does intellectual harm to those who are not exposed to the truth,” said Campbellsville University professor Dr. Renee Sartin.
Brendan Everwine, a duPont Manual High School junior in Louisville, said the bill’s curriculum proposals were “insufficient and whitewashed.”
“Refusing to acknowledge the American history of upholding the institution of slavery and segregation is destructive to our national healing and the continuing fight for our equality. My education is not a tool to be messed with for partisan gain,” said Everwine.
Teachers also spoke out against the bill, saying it dictates too much of what educators should teach.
“Though some of the more egregious wording has been removed, the substitute should still raise serious alarm bells for those who cherish academic freedom. Who will comprise the new book police perusing our shelves for volumes they deem not relevant, not objective enough, or disrespectful to contending perspectives?” said Jamestown Elementary teacher Donnie Wilkerson.
According to Senator Wise, the bill also prohibits incentivizing students to complete certain assignments or advocating for certain issues if those assignments go against the student or family’s values. Senator Wise says the bill aims to unify, not divide.
“One of the first questions I’ve got is ‘Senator Wise, why did you file this particular type of bill?’ ‘Why do we need this at this time of our country’s situation, the time of our state?’ So, amid national and statewide tensions that seem to be further dividing us, I’m drafting a bill with an attempt to unify,” said Senator Wise.
The bill was approved Thursday by the Senate Education Committee and now moves to the Senate floor.