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An Iowa House subcommittee advanced a bill on Thursday aimed at highlighting patriotic exercises as well as civic and historical instruction regarding certain holidays. House Study Bill 604 provides schools include appropriate patriotic exercises and relevant civic and historical instruction related to certain holidays.

The holidays listed in the bill are:

Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Abe Lincoln’s birthday
George Washington’s birthday
Armed Forces Day
Memorial Day
Constitution Day
Columbus Day
Veterans Day
Thanksgiving Day
Bill of Rights Day

Melissa Peterson with the Iowa State Education Association spoke against the bill, noting the teachers union does not like legislation that is “so prescriptive” as it applies to curriculum. Peterson also said the bill is too broad.

Connie Ryan with the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa said her organization is opposed because public schools are not intended to “ensure our children and youth are patriotic.”

“And who is to say or define what patriotism is,” she asked. “Forcing patriotism on a people is never a good idea and has never worked in our history as a world.”

Ryan added that professional educators should decide what to include in the day-to-day education of Iowa children, not legislators.

Nathan Arnold with Professional Educators of Iowa said the group is neutral, even though it is a huge fan of the intent behind the bill.

“More and more our society is forgetting what it means to be an American,” Arnold said.

However, PEI prefers curriculum decisions to go through the Department of Education.

Patty Alexander, a retired educator, spoke in support of the bill. Alexander noted just 13 percent of eighth-graders score proficiently in American History according to a recent assessment.

“This is unacceptable,” she said.

As an educator, Alexander said her classes focused a section on symbols of America. As a result, many families went on vacations and incorporated those symbols along the way.

But in 2021, the district she worked for hired a culture climate coordinator. First-grade students instead had a focus for social studies to investigate how social identities can influence students’ own and others thoughts and behaviors. Alexander called that approach “very age-inappropriate and very obscure.”

Schools should focus on victory and hard work rather than social identity and victimhood, Alexander added.

Amber Williams also spoke in favor of the bill. A local sixth-grade teacher was told no when they asked if they could put up a veterans table to commemorate Veterans Day last year. She also explained how Linn-Mar refused to distribute donated pocket Constitutions on Constitution Day because the staff and administration disagreed with the organization that donated them.

“We have got to restore pride in our country and the principles it was founded on as it is seriously lacking in our public education,” Williams said. “I don’t know why anyone or any organization would be opposed. I would hope it’s not because they support the anti-American ideologies taking place in our public schools. Ideologies that are teaching children to hate this country. I got news for you, it’s working.”

Williams referenced the public disturbance caused by transgender activists on Wednesday at the Capitol. The activists shouted, chanted profanities, made explicit gestures and banged on the committee room door at one point. Williams said the behavior demonstrated by those activists showed a lack of respect that was hostile and sad to witness.

Democrat State Rep. Art Staed spoke against the bill. Staed taught for 40 years and said some holidays were missing from the list. He also took issue with Columbus Day being referred to as Columbus Day rather than Indigenous Peoples Day.

Republican State Rep. Brooke Boden said it perplexes her why people wouldn’t want to teach such things. She joined the floor managed, Republican State Rep. Heather Hora, in advancing the bill.

Author: Jacob Hall


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