The Indiana House of Representatives, half of the state legislature under the know-nothing thrall of effectively one-party rule, has passed House Bill 1134 with a largely party line vote (surprise!) limiting what teachers can say regarding race, history and politics in Indiana classrooms with the penalties of fines and potential revocation of teachers’ licenses.
There is the possibility that saner heads in the Indiana Senate (if they are not unicorns and actually exist) will neuter the bill while still pandering to their slobbering and panting base or even better let it die for lack of attention. But I’m not holding my breath.
This legislative attempt to sanitize (if not literally whitewash) teaching has brought howls of dismay and dire predictions of intellectual disaster from many teachers and those whose politics are more liberal than the supermajority in the Best Legislature$$Can Buy.
This has been a long time coming and I cannot avoid seeing this as another example when human beings are living the Shakespearean line where Hamlet decided to hoist Claudius who was plotting against him with his own petard (for those who are not up on Shakespeare a petard is a bomb). It is a wonderful description of irony.
Early in my ministry, I realized that I and many pastors faced the Sisyphean task of countering the rising relativism in children, youth and adults in the classrooms and culture of our nation. Truth became fungible. There was your truth and there was my truth. I could dismiss your truth simply because it did not match my truth. You could not challenge my truth simply because I believed my truth was unassailable and you were a bad person if you had the audacity to question it.
Then those largely on the liberal side of the philosophical and political spectrum upped the ante. It was no longer possible to question another’s truth because that might hit the other’s emotional triggers or (gasp!) rise to the level of micro-aggression.
Rather than participants in a vigorous and civil struggle in the marketplace of ideas for truth who still showed a modicum of respect for those who did not share our understanding of the truth, we became tribal true believers who brooked no information contrary to our position and demonized those who believed and behaved differently. The marketplace of ideas was monetized and weaponized by those who saw the opportunity to gain financially and politically by reinforcing tribal loyalties at the expense and detriment of other tribes.
Now we find ourselves with a ripening crop of denial of science, whether manifested in belief or disbelief in climate change caused by human activity, if viruses are dangerous or merely inconvenient and vaccines are safe and effective, and prophylactic measures should be used by everyone, or whether children and youth should be taught the truth and nothing but the truth or protected against any ideas that might make them feel bad about themselves or their parents.
The irony that the mantras and tactics of those on the left of the political spectrum are now being employed very effectively by those on the right would be deliciously ironic to me if where we are and what it means for our body politic, our culture and even the church were not so disturbing.
We have sown the wind. Are we reaping the whirlwind?