Picture your history teacher on trial. Not some Law and Order courtroom, but a real Johnson County District court. Their credibility, their reputation, their lifetime of dedication to education, all on the witness stand for questioning. The crime is simple – corrupting the minds of youth. After all, showing Michelangelo’s David in class was too far. How dare they steal your innocence by exposing you to human genitalia.
Situations like these may not be as far-fetched as you think. The recent trend of Kansas politics, highlighted by Senate Bill 53, is leaning towards an all-out-attack on not only teachers, but education itself.
Maintaining a good system of education is one of, if not the most important, tasks of our society. Yet this institution, this societal cornerstone, is being threatened.
Senate Bill 53 marks a grave turning point in the state of Kansas, and our country. The bill states that any teacher who exposes a minor to “harmful material” could be subject to prosecution from the state and could face up to six months in prison.
The intentionally-vague language of the bill is designed so that no child could be exposed to anything “harmful”, from a sex-ed video to a statue’s junk. Obviously, no one is advocating to show children obscenities or pornography in school.
But who decides what is obscene?
Traditionally, it has been up to the schools and their teachers to decide what is moral and immoral, and what is worth teaching our children. But this bill would instead place that decision in the hands of some detached legislator.
In an attempt to highlight the absurdity of this bill, Wichita Democrat John Carmichael sarcastically testified that, under this bill, a teacher could hypothetically go to jail for showing the statue of David or mentioning the sexual innuendos in Romeo and Juliet. Without batting an eye, sponsor of the bill and Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook issued a chilling response: the jury will have to decide if the defendant is guilty or not, but prosecution would definitely be legal.
For a legislature and an administration that advocates for limited government involvement, this misuse of state authority is not only unconstitutional, but hypocritical.
The bill barely passed last year before being shot down in the Senate, but the fact that it is on the floor for the second time in one year should be a red flag about the state of our political system. A red flag, to any Kansan who cares about the future of our education system, and the future of our state: it is time to act.
If we continue to elect representatives like Brownback and Pilcher-Cook, we may as well be putting the teacher on the stand ourselves.