116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa House File 802, passed by Republican lawmakers, took effect on July 1. As a recently retired teacher, I’m concerned about the effects of this bill.
Public school educators will now be prohibited from teaching divisive concepts, such as “that the United States of American and the state of Iowa are fundamentally or systemically racist or sexist.” Since the Jim Crow laws that existed in the U.S. for almost a century, from the end of Reconstruction to the civil rights legislation of the mid-1960s, are one example of systemic racism, this new law would ban teaching that part of American history. The same would be true of the Japanese internment camps, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Trail of Tears, and nearly the entire history of the U.S. government’s interactions with Native peoples.
If I were still teaching sophomore English, I’d be unable to teach To Kill a Mockingbird, since it addresses, among other things, the systemic racism that resulted in the conviction of Tom Robinson for an act he did not commit.
House File 802 also bans teaching concepts that might cause an individual to “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of that individual’s race or sex.” This will pressure teachers to self-censor on the basis of what any student might feel — or say they feel.
Shielding students from difficult truths prevents them from understanding our history for what it was and becoming better citizens because of that understanding.