I just read an article talking about a new Arizona law banning Ethnic Studies classes in the public school system, particularly “Mexican-American Studies.” This kind of parallels to Utah’s failed attempt to ban sex education in primary education during this past legislative session. And it kind of also reminds me of that 1925 Scopes Trial when that high school teacher was tried for teaching evolution to his students.
The notion of schools intentionally excluding so-called ‘controversial topics’ from their curriculums sort of worries me. In a perfect world like North Korea, I guess you could say things are ‘peaceful’ when ideas are controlled and manipulated in such a way that ensures that everyone sees things the exact same way. If everyone had perfect access to the exact same information and formed the exact same opinions, there will be no room for disagreement or conflict. In theory, this is nice, but the real world isn’t like that.
The reasons behind laws like the one in Arizona and the attempt in Utah are that students shouldn’t be exposed to those types of information in school because that’s how they get ideas. Educators in Arizona believed that the radical ideas of Mexican youth to ‘rise up against the White man’ originate in their own classrooms and then influence their ‘troublesome’ behavior. Educators in Utah felt that sex education exposed them to unnecessary information that actually makes them curious and leads to increasing teen pregnancy rates.
I think that it’s more important for students to be aware of this type of information rather than sheltered from it. It can’t be proven that this information will inhibit behavior our society is trying to control, but it can’t be proven that it encourages it either. There are so many different forces that influence a person’s way of thinking and the actions that result from them, but cutting access to essential information really makes no difference. If anything, it hurts the child and makes them more ignorant like the rest of the country.
Growing up in Utah, I feel like I learned more from people’s Facebook statuses than in school. It’s so embarrassing that a lot of kids in my generation knew nothing about the LRA until the Kony 2012 movement on the internet. It’s also humiliating that kids my age don’t care about politics until it’s posted on Facebook or Twitter, including the SOPA and PIPA legislation.
Reinforcing ignorance in future generations isn’t going to help this country move forward. I don’t know why our culture is so terrified of new ideas and calls them ‘radical.’ People need to understand that progress can only happen if kids are encouraged to have an open mind. New ideas should be inspired while they are in school so that they can make positive use of those ideas; if they have to learn about new things from outside sources, it might be taken to mean that those ideas are bad and may then lead to deviant behavior. But if new ideas are taught carefully, thoroughly and properly in a classroom setting, the information will be given to the student in a way that won’t be harmful to their learning and to society as a whole.
Obviously, I don’t have a Ph.D in child development, but this is just what I think.