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Indiana Sen. Scott Baldwin apologizes for saying teachers should be 'impartial' on Nazism

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Posted at 2:37 PM, Jan 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-11 14:46:49-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana State Sen. Scott Baldwin, R-Noblesville, has apologized after he sparked nationwide controversy by saying teachers must remain “impartial” when discussing topics such as Nazism.

In a statement released Monday night, Baldwin said 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," Baldwin said.

“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. I said Wednesday that we need to listen and be open to changes that can improve the bill, and we are working on amendments to that end.”

RELATED | Indiana teachers union expresses opposition to school curriculum bills

During testimony last week on Senate Bill 167, Fishers High School social studies teacher Matt Bockenfeld said he was teaching the rise of fascism and Nazism and added, “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 understand the traits of fascism so that we can recognize it and we can combat it.”

Baldwin countered by saying he believes teachers go too far when they “take a position on those isms. We need to be impartial.”

Baldwin later walked back his comments in a statement to the Indianapolis Star. However, the Anti-Defamation League Midwest released a statement Friday condemning Baldwin’s remarks.

There's nothing neutral about Nazism. The Nazis were responsible for the death of more than 11 million innocent people, including 6 million Jews. Senator Baldwin's apology doesn't change the deep harms of using "impartiality" or "neutrality" as tools to sanitize history.

This is part of the continued efforts by some to try and rewrite history and characterize extremism, racism, and genocide as somehow legitimate. That is dangerous and despicable. It should be categorically, universally, and loudly rejected.

We applaud Indiana educators who continue to speak out against this type of toxic rhetoric.

National news outlets, such CNN, the Washington Post, Vanity Fair and Huffpost also took note of Baldwin’s comments.

On Monday, “Nazism” was trending on Twitter with a link to the Post’s story.

Talk show host Stephen Colbert also dedicated three minutes of his “Late Show” monologue Monday night to Baldwin's comments and said SB167 would leave Indiana students with “six hours of shop class and dodge ball.”

Baldwin co-authored SB167, which along with the nearly identical House Bill 1134, take aim at topics educators teach in the classroom.

SB167 would require schools to form committees so that parents could review teachers’ curriculum and give opinions on materials used in class.

It would prohibit schools from teaching concepts related to sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin or political affiliation.

Parents could also opt their students out of any part of the curriculum, which would lead to teachers needing to provide a different lesson plan for individual students.