Arkansas House Passes Bills To Let Teachers Teach Creationism, Bully Trans Students
This week, the Arkansas House passed two bills seemingly designed to make it incredibly unpleasant for kids who are not Bible-banging bigots to attend school. Why? Well, because they're assholes. There's not really a better or deeper answer than that.
On Wednesday, the House passed a bill allowing teachers to teach creationism. Yes, we're actually doing this again. Apparently now that Trump is gone, conservatives feel much more free to go back to their more theocratic tendencies. Despite the claims of many "prophets" that Trump was practically the Second Coming, the actual practice of supporting a crass, twice-divorced casino owner who was obviously only feigning to be super into Jesus seemed to make many Christians chill on the whole "the earth is 6,000 years old!" thing. Quite frankly, I think they didn't want to run the risk of anyone actually asking him about it.
Rep. Mary Bentley sponsored HB 1704 which would allow for teachers to use the creation theory in science along with the evolution theory.
"I've had teachers in my district ask me if we could please make it available for them to be able to discuss some scientists that truly believe that the theory of creation should be taught in school," Bentley said, adding that it could be taught along with the theory of evolution, not in place of it.
Bentley said this bill would allow teachers the option to use creation theory but it does not force them.
Now, this is obviously illegal. The Supreme Court determined in 1987's Edwards v. Aguillard that teaching creationism in science classes is unconstitutional because creationism is a Christian religious belief and a public school cannot teach a Christian religious belief as science, no matter how desperately some Christians may want to believe that their belief is scientific.
Bentley, however, appears to be betting on the fact that a very conservative Supreme Court may change that.
It is understandable — or at least it has been made clear — that many Christians don't just think of their beliefs as things that they believe because it is part of their religion, but because they are factually true. So it probably does really hurt their feelings to be told "That's not science and you can't teach it as science." But the fact is, it is their religion. Teachers who wish to teach creationism are free, in their off-hours, to teach Sunday School or to stand outside on a sidewalk, handing out Jack Chick flyers and evangelizing to their heart's content — but they are not free to try to convert their students, because that is illegal. It is also not what they are being paid, by taxpayers, to do.
Not everyone gets to do what they love for a living. I do, but I'm lucky. If these people want to teach creationism for a living, then they will have to find another job and someone who is willing to pay them to do that. It's not that hard! Or it shouldn't be. Unless what they really want is an opportunity to preach to non-Christian children in a captive setting. Then they might have a problem.
As if that weren't bad enough, the House also passed a House Bill 1749, which would allow teachers to misgender trans students and call them by their dead name. Supposedly because teachers are scared that they won't be able to keep track of preferred pronouns and new names.
Guess who the chief sponsor of that bill is? Mary Bentley! Who apparently just spends all day every day talking to teachers about these matters.
Via Arkansas Online:
Bentley said schools should do more to address things like students changing their name between classes or identifying as an animal.
"We have a real issue in our state, and I need our districts to take a look at this and do more than this bill does," Bentley said. "This bill is just a first step to help protect our teachers but when we have students in school now that don't identify as a boy or a girl but as a cat, as a furry, we have issues."
Some members of the House Education Committee said Tuesday that those concerns weren't something they'd heard from teachers.
In response to a question from committee member Rep. Charlene Fite, R-Van Buren, Bentley said no teacher had been sued for not using a student's preferred name or pronoun in Arkansas as of Tuesday.
Looks like Oh! You let gay people get married, someone's gonna wanna marry their dog! is now Oh! You let trans people exist! Someone's going to want to be a cat!
Of course, it's obvious why people like Bentley pull that nonsense. Her point is not that it will be too confusing for teachers, but that being trans is absurd as "identifying as a cat." She's also trying to make it out like teachers are being bombarded by legions of trans students changing their names and pronouns every day, because she wants it to look like this is simply a trend rather than who these kids actually are.
Bentley said some teachers had raised concerns to her about students who have changed their name or pronoun several times in a year, or use three different names in as many classrooms, and fear that they'll be sued for not addressing the child by their preferred name or pronoun.
"It's not compelling anyone's speech. It's not prohibiting anyone's speech. It's helping those professors and teachers in our schools that do not want to be sued for not using a certain person's pronoun," Bentley said.
Every year at the beginning of class, even when I was a kid, teachers asked students if they had a nickname they preferred. They kept track of all the Jens, Jennys and Jennifers just fine. Heck, my teachers even learned how to pronounce my last name (most of them, anyway). This is no more difficult than that. No one is looking to sue teachers over making a sincere mistake. The issue is teachers who just really want to misgender trans students and call them by their old names because they don't think those kids should exist. Because they want those kids to feel badly about who they are. They want those kids to be uncomfortable so that they, the adults, can feel more comfortable. They are putting their own comfort ahead of their students' comfort.
People who want children to feel bad should not be teachers, end of discussion.
Of course, it is entirely possible that all of these science teachers who desperately want to teach creationism and all these teachers who are very jazzed about humiliating their students exist primarily in the mind of Mary Bentley. Perhaps Mary Bentley should quit her job in the House and start a private school for students who wish to be poorly informed jerks.
Anyway! This is now your open thread! Have a lovely day!
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse