Bill Russell: House Bill 1218 is Censorship in Action

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Guest commentary

Every Arkansan should read House Bill 1218 which our State Representative Lowery introduced and was co-sponsored by State Senators Mark Johnson and Gary Stubblefield. Read it for yourself by clicking here.

It reads like it might have originated in 1930s Germany, or something issued by Vladimir Putin.

In essence, it seeks to punish Arkansas public schools, colleges and universities for conducting classes, courses, activities, and events that pertain to race, gender, political affiliation, or classes of people -- anything promoting division between classes of people or the overthrow of the U.S. government. The Bill proposes that the State Education Department would interpret and define these words with enforcement help from the Attorney General.

So what does it mean?

I can tell you what it seems to mean to me. We will not have any “diversity” efforts in Arkansas Public Schools. Also, we may not have any teaching about “Women’s Suffrage.” Women did not get the right to vote in this nation until 100 years ago. They could not get credit or a bank loan without a man’s signature. Still today  there is no Equal Rights Amendment. 

We may not have any teaching about “Enslavement,” unless it possibly suggests that all slavery was just necessary and they didn’t have it so bad.

We may not have any teaching about the 1839 Trail of Tears removal of Native Americans off their own lands, not to speak of the National effort to eliminate these people. For sure, we will not even begin to touch LGBT protection and rights.

Schools may not celebrate African-American History or Cinco De Mayo Day or St. Patrick’s Day, because don’t you know, they “promote division.” 

We may not teach any form of science -- after all the earth is flat and we never landed on the moon.

Facts can be divisive.

The irony of this blatant censorship measure seemingly designed to stifle educators and to pander to the radical right is that many of these same legislators just promoted “division” under their right to freedom of speech by questioning the validity of our recent elections and seeking to overturn the will of the people in four states. They might even have you believe that such rhetoric as “Trial by Combat,” and “Take Back Your Country” is permissible under our Constitution and not “divisive” or promoting the overthrow of the government.

But these darn Arkansas educators have to be kept in line with censorship legislation.

NO to House Bill 1218!

Bill Russell is retired Army Colonel and retired Communications Specialist with the University of Arkansas. He is a resident of Maumelle.