Republican lawmakers voted Friday to demand that students be exposed to the stories of people who fled communism as part of a program to prepare them to be “civilly responsible and knowledgeable adults.”
The language, inserted by Representative Judy Burges, R-Skull Valley, in a 232-page bill on changes to K-12 education laws, indicates there needs to be a comparative discussion political ideologies like communism and totalitarianism and how they “conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy essential to the founding principles of the United States. The state’s education ministry also has a mandate to come up with new standards of civic education, including the expectation that citizens will be responsible for preserving and upholding the “blessings of freedom.”
But it also requires the agency to create a list of oral histories “that provide portraits of patriotism based on first-person accounts of victims of the ruling philosophies of other nations who can compare those philosophies with those of the United States.” “.
Rep. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, said what this means was clear to him.
“Reality is one of the biggest threats the world faces today, it is communism and totalitarianism,” he said.
“We have governments like the Communist Chinese government whose stated goal is to be the one and only superpower in the world, and they will achieve that goal by any means possible.”
Legislation approved on a 31-25 party line vote contains much more.
For example, it is forbidden to teach that a person’s race, ethnicity or gender determines their morality or holds them responsible for acts committed by the same group. Violations could result in a fine of $ 5,000 to the school district and the instructor losing a teaching certificate.
And school boards will not be able to enforce the use of masks by students or staff on school campuses.
Lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle have also used the measure to debate whether the state is doing enough to fund K-12 education, even though it’s part of a separate budget measure.
But the discussion has become more heated on the issue of this new compulsory civic education and what should be the emphasis on teaching patriotism and whether our form of government is better than any other.
“The threat of communism, and frankly, even here within our own borders, the threat of Marxism is on our porch,” Hoffman said. And he said there are people “within the school systems” who are socialist.
His poster child for this is Noah Karvelis who was involved in Kathy Hoffman’s successful 2018 candidacy to be head of public schools and the Proposition 208 campaign, calling him a “overt socialist”.
Karvelis, who no longer lives in Arizona, spoke at the 2018 Socialism Conference in Chicago about the historic Arizona teachers’ strike and the Invest in Ed law. But Karvelis said at the time that he was there to network with other teachers’ organizations.
“Teaching our children about the evils of communism and totalitarianism is right,” Hoffman said. “It is our duty and our responsibility to do so.”
And that, he said, means students are hearing “the true testimony of people who escaped these types of governments and now live here and enjoy the blessings of this country.”
But Representative Daniel Hernandez, D-Tucson, said the legislation misses the point.
“Do you know what the biggest threat is? ” He asked. “White nationalism. “
Hernandez also placed the U.S. Capitol insurgency in the same category.
“So, yes, let’s talk about communism,” he said. “But let’s talk about making sure we don’t let people get away with the sort of thing that happened on January 6 and teaching our kids that it’s okay to try to overthrow a democratically elected government. . “
This prompted a response from Representative Quang Nguyen, R-Prescott Valley, who was born in Vietnam in 1962 and emigrated to the United States after the Vietnam War.
“White nationalism has not drowned 250,000 Vietnamese in the South China Sea,” he told his colleagues. “The Communists did it.”
Ditto, he says, of the execution of 86,000 Vietnamese at the fall of Saigon. And Nguyen said it was communism that brought him to America.
“So don’t take it lightly, don’t make fun of me, don’t make fun of what I’m going through in life,” he said, claiming he had lost most of his members. family because of communism. “If we don’t stand up and teach our children about communism, we will lose this country. “
The language added by Burges also requires instruction on “civic expectations of upright and desirable citizenship.”
While the bill passed by a 31-25 vote, the future of civic education provisions may not stand.
This language is not in a parallel bill that Senator Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, has already passed in the Senate. And Boyer told Capitol Media Services he does not support the provision.
“We shouldn’t be dictating the agenda from above, even if it is well intentioned,” he said. Differences between the House and Senate versions will have to be resolved in a conference committee.
There is another key difference.
The Senate version contains language that would allow many more parents to use public money vouchers to send their children to private and parish schools. But efforts to add this to the House version failed after Republican Representatives Michelle Udall of Mesa and Joel John of Arlington voted with Democrats to exclude it from the legislation.
This too should be settled in a House-Senate conference committee.