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Students and faculty talked about banning classroom discussions on gender and race at hearings: NPR

Students and faculty talked about banning classroom discussions on gender and race at hearings: NPR

MP Jamie Ruskin, MD, has chaired hearings on new laws that restrict discussion of gender, sexual orientation and race in the classroom. Among those who spoke were students, parents and teachers.

Emily Feng, host:

A ban on books and orders to shut up education – these hot topics were at the center of today’s hearing in Congress in response to a wave of state laws restricting discussions of race and gender in the classroom. This was reported by Melissa Block of NPR.

MELISA BLOCK, BAYLINE: One of the most ardent witnesses at today’s hearing was a high school student from Novi, Michigan, Krishna Romani, who called on lawmakers to stop underestimating young people.


ROOF ROMANI: Generation Z has the ability – and, more importantly, the willingness – to learn about the issues that affect us. We want to engage in these tough conversations. We want to read about different points of view that affect us. And efforts to regulate what can be taught in the classroom undermine the ability of young people to understand subtle arguments.

BLOCK: Also testified before the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on the mother of a non-binary high school student concerned about Florida’s so-called “Don’t talk about gays” law; an African-American high school principal from Texas who lost his job after he was accused of promoting a critical theory of race; and Willie Carver, a gay teacher from Kentucky who described a climate of growing censorship and fear.


WILLY CARVER: Students are now using anti-LGBTQ or racist insults without consequences. Hatred is now politically protected. My Gay-Straight Alliance, or GSA – a campus group dedicated to LGBTQ and security issues – was unable to share additional on-campus surveys with classmates. I was told this could cause inconvenience to direct students. When the posters were torn off the walls, my director replied that people thought that LGBTQ propaganda was, he quote, “stuffing in the throat.”

BLOCK: Committee member Nancy Mace of South Carolina later asked these questions to Mr. Carver.


Nancy Mace: Do you think learning pronouns or learning to read is more important for kids in school?

CARVER: Pronouns are part of reading.

BULAVA: Is it more important, pronouns …

CARVER: Reading is more important.

MAS: … Do you learn to read? – just interesting.

Do you think that students should be expelled from school if they do not use the correct pronouns at school?

BLOCK: According to Mace, the school lesson plans, I quote, are “imbued with ideological and radical ideology.” The innocence of our children must be protected, she said. Subcommittee Chair Jamie Ruskin, a Maryland Democrat, called the wave of state laws an escalation of the onslaught on freedom of speech and freedom of thought with predictable cooling.


JAMEMY RUSKIN: The grotesque effect of these censorship laws is that teachers cannot even discuss with students the actual self-proclaimed motivations of the Buffalo shooter or the lies and racial hostility inherent in white replacement theories without fear of being fired.

BLOCK: Yale University history professor Timothy Snyder had to give a distant look. He told lawmakers that the omission of so-called separating concepts is a long-standing practice of totalitarian regimes.


Timothy Snyder: We can’t help but be struck by the fact that banning books and trying to limit classroom discussion to some homogenized set of topics are a hallmark of the early stages of the end of democracy.

BLOCK: As Snyder explained, authors know that to master the present and the future, they must first master the past.

Melissa Block, NPR News, Washington.

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