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The Iowa Senate passed a bill on Tuesday that calls for the Department of Education director to conduct a review of Iowa’s core curriculum, education standards and high school graduation requirements and then give recommendations to the governor and legislature by July 1, 2025. House File 2545 also was amended to increase focus on U.S. history and Western civilization in social studies.

Republican State Sen. Brad Zaun managed the bill, noting it requires a comprehensive review of the core curriculum and focuses on English, language arts, math, science and social studies. He offered the amendment to add an emphasis on U.S. history and Western civilization.

Democrat State Sen. Herman Quirmbach attempted to amend Zaun’s amendment in an effort to change the term Western civilization to world civilization. Quirmbach criticized Western civilization as meaning white civilization. That attempt failed, however.

Democrat State Sen. Molly Donahue spoke against the amendment, claiming it “whitewashes” history and limits history to Western civilization and is based on “Christian nationalist ideals.”

“What we do here at the Capitol matters to our constituency,” she said. “And the bills that we put forth in education need to build on education, not tear down the process and not tying the hands of experts to teach students what will help them to compete globally in their futures. This bill dumbs down history for a political point.”

Republican State Sen. Sandy Salmon called the Zaun amendment “excellent.” She said Iowa kids should be taught to be proud of American history.

“What I heard here is a negative characterization of Western civilization in favor of world civilization,” she said. “And I think what we’re trying to do here is to instruct our youth in what Western civilization has offered us. Western civilization is our heritage. American history is our heritage. That’s where we’ve come from. We have to understand it to understand where we are going and to have something to even offer the world.”

Salmon said it’s fine to focus on who America is and what its heritage is.

“We’re Americans,” she said. “We were born in Western civilization. That’s our heritage. We have to understand that. That heritage has produced the freest, strongest, most prosperous nation and civilization in the world. Why wouldn’t we want our youth to understand that?”

The bill will return to the House having been passed and amended in the Senate.



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