PEN: Educational Gag Orders-Legislative Restrictions on the Freedom to Read, Learn and Teach

Significant:

Today PEN America released a report on an alarming trend mounting across the country to impose legislative limitations on teaching and learning on topics including race, gender, and American history. In the first nine months of 2021, 24 state legislatures introduced 54 bills that would restrict teaching and training in K-12 schools, public colleges and universities, and/or state agencies and institutions. Eleven of those bills have become laws in nine states. These bills reflect raging debates underway in communities across the country that came to a head during last week’s gubernatorial election in Virginia and are dominating discussions in school boards and faculty lounges nationwide.

For those concerned about the impact on the higher education sector, 21 of the bills introduced or pre-filed explicitly apply to colleges and universities. Of these, 16 explicitly impose restrictions on academic courses or curricula, and 10 explicitly address training for college students or employees. Ten bills explicitly targeting academic college-level teaching are pending or have been pre-filed for 2022.

This legislative wave followed the mass protests that swept the United States in 2020 in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, and the reckonings initiated to come to grips with the lingering legacy of racial injustice.
Efforts to delve into and more thoroughly address the role that slavery, race, and racism play in American society implicate complex questions relating to history, politics, and human relations. Rather than engaging in reasoned debate on these critical issues, the bills and laws documented in our report seek to shut down discourse through legislative fiat. We label these measures “educational gag orders,” a reflection of their censorious effect that imposes viewpoint-based constrictions on what can be discussed in American classrooms.

PEN America calls on all those who believe in free speech to oppose these efforts to silence discussion and debate through force of law.Educational Gag Orders: Legislative Restrictions on the Freedom to Read, Learn, and Teach examines these bills in depth. Many would punish educators, colleges, schools, and districts that dare to cover excluded topics. The report documents how these bills and laws have already had a chilling effect on campuses and in classrooms across the country, on both open discourse and academic freedom, and risk further muzzling vital societal discourse on racism, sexism, and the complexities of American history.

Educational Gag Orders: Legislative Restrictions on the Freedom to Read, Learn, and Teach examines these bills in depth. Many would punish educators, colleges, schools, and districts that dare to cover excluded topics. The report documents how these bills and laws have already had a chilling effect on campuses and in classrooms across the country, on both open discourse and academic freedom, and risk further muzzling vital societal discourse on racism, sexism, and the complexities of American history.

Source: https://b46674ee0d922ea3560b2c63b8d5fa34.tinyemails.com/21e22508c148a3777f075d12b9411cca/8e7676d24e8e81dc149a24f1e883a04d.html

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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