(Shutterstock with additions by United With Israel) (Shutterstock with additions by United With Israel)
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Legislation against critical race theory are having unfortunate spillover effects for Holocaust education.

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

An Indiana state lawmaker apologized for saying teachers should be neutral about teaching Nazism and Fascism to students.

State Senator Scott Baldwin’s comments came during a committee hearing on a bill to forbid schools from teaching critical race theory. Baldwin was responding to Matt Bockenfeld, a public school teacher who said Bill 167’s wording would make it impossible for him to teach about Nazism and Fascism.

“For example, it’s the second semester of U.S. history, so we’re learning about the rise of fascism and the rise of Nazism right now,” Bockenfeld said.

“And I’m just not neutral on the political ideology of fascism. We condemn it, and we condemn it in full, and I tell my students the purpose, in a democracy, of understanding the traits of fascism is so that we can recognize it and we can combat it,” Bockenfeld said. “That is why we learn to use history to make a better world.”

Baldwin responded, “I have no problem with the education system providing instruction on the existence of those ‘isms.’ I believe that we’ve gone too far when we take a position on those ‘isms.’ As it relates … we need to be impartial. We just provide the facts. The kids formulate their own viewpoints.”

The senator added, “I’m not sure it’s right for us to determine how that child should think and that’s where I’m trying to provide the guardrails.”

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Critical race theory is a controversial academic concept which argues that racism isn’t just a result of individual prejudices, but systemically ingrained in policies and legal systems. It is more commonly taught at the university level.

The theory’s Jewish opponents say it contributes to antisemitism by promoting misconceptions or Jewish power and privilege. Specifically, the theory automatically assumes Jews are “white,” effectively erasing Jewish identity and collectively treating Jews as “oppressors.”

In numerous states, Republican efforts against critical race theory at the K-12 levels either ban its teaching or require educators to offer students alternative viewpoints. But legislation has created confusing spillover effects for how Nazism and the Holocaust are taught.

In Texas, which has a similar law, an administrator in one school district shocked educators in October by advising them to provide an “opposing” perspective on the Holocaust. Texas officials said the administrator “misinterpreted” and “overreacted” to the law.

The Indiana bill, sponsored by Baldwin and six other Republican lawmakers, doesn’t mention critical race theory by name, but says that the curriculum “may not include or promote certain concepts as part of a course of instruction or in a curriculum or direct or otherwise compel a school employee or student to adhere to certain tenets relating to the individual’s sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin, or political affiliation.”

The Indianapolis Star reported that Baldwin reached out to Bockenfeld, inviting the history teacher to help craft the legislation, an overture which Bockenfeld accepted.

The senator also tweeted an apology, saying he unequivocally condemns Nazism, Fascism and Marxism.

“When I said in the meeting, ‘I’m with you on those particular isms,’ that is what I meant to convey. As someone who fought to defend our democracy I agree teachers should condemn those dangerous ideologies, and I sincerely regret that I did not articulate that and apologize for it,” the senator wrote.

“We absolutely need to teach our children about the tragedies of the past, which is why the legislation in its current form specifically protects the teaching of historical injustices.”

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, a Republican, has not indicated whether he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

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