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OPINION: HB 1218 takes a 'backward' step for Arkansas, education

Trio of white men willtake funding away fromcourses on ‘diversity’ by Maylon T Rice | January 27, 2021 at 5:25 a.m.

There is, sadly, one very bad, harmful, and if you will, a "backward" bill in every legislative session.

Already, many thought the new and improved "Stand Your Ground," bill back for a re-try in 2021 would be that harmful, yet politically stout move to shove Arkansas even further to the political right, would be that ultimate "backward step" this session.

But no, the "Stand Your Ground" issue, isn't the current far-right bill contending for the state legislator's worst efforts to file an oppressive, outdated and often illegal bill under the guise of needed "new legislation."

That honor belongs to House Bill 1218, from state Rep. Mark Lowery, R-Maumelle, who lists his primary occupation as an "adjunct instructor." He filed a three-and-a-half page bill that will take Arkansas back to the "very dark draconian days" in our state's history.

Lowery, a part-time instructor at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, is the architect, of this latest outrage.

As his reputation, from the other 99 members of the lower chamber and almost the same in the upper chamber, Lowery's quirky, odd-ball and sort of slimy reputation, is indeed showing.

"Do not quote me," one veteran House member said this past week, "but Lowery knows it has zero chance of passing."

"He's doing this to call attention to what he sees as a problem in some districts, including Fayetteville, and what he fears is coming. And he's succeeded. That bill is getting lots of attention!"

And the bill is causing heartburn from Arkansas' school superintendents and many state-supported college deans.

But that is exactly what Rep. Lowery and his two stooges in the upper chamber, Sens. Stubblefield and Johnson seem to hope to accomplish.

Still, this time-waster of a bill is bad, bad legislation. It must be thwarted, turned back, and not allowed to progress and pass the General Assembly.

It is, and I say it again, a "backward" step and an "illegal" attempt to legislate education by statute.

But Lowery, who has been in the legislature for the last eight years, is joined by state Sens. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, and newbie Mark Johnson, R-Little Rock, in this effort to turn back the clock to the days when nothing other than the three-r's -- reading, writing and arithmetic-- were taught or even considered for classroom offerings.

These three white men, I'll call them out, are 63, 69, and 66 years old. None, to my knowledge, have ever before offered any type of educational bills to augment, promote or enhance the learning or diversity of Arkansas' children.

But by HB 1218, these three men certainly do not want any new, innovative or trending classes on such topics as gender, economic equity, race, or -- as the bill itself calls them -- courses or events or campus activities regarding race, gender, political affiliation, social class or certain classes of people to be not only not taught but also halting all events occurring on campus or in the classroom.

The drafters of the bill did, and only by a mandated federal law, allow the teaching of concepts within the Native Americans act to remain in place.

An opponent of the bill, Arkansas' 2019 Teacher of the Year Stacey McAdoo, told Arkansas Talk Business this past week that educators within the community know what is best, not legislators. And she is, of course, exactly correct.

The "chatter about the bill" on the college campuses and even down to the elementary and secondary schools is of shock, disgust and dismay.

But just being mad, indignant and posting emails and Twitter notices don't stop such bills -- only face-to-face challenges in the legislative forum stop such bills.

My message to the educational community is: "Don't' just get mad or indignant. Go down, testify against this bad bill and call out these three white men who seek to miss-direct the educational path of the future of Arkansas."

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As I wrap up this week's column, I must give out a well-deserved shout-out of thanks and appreciation to Jackie Brooks, the retiring proofreader and copy editor of many articles you read in this publication, not just these feeble words each week.

She is retiring from journalism, and I wish her well. She has been a good wordsmith often adding clarity, sense and correct usage of the English language in this space. Happy retirement to you Jackie Brooks!

Maylon Rice is a former journalist who worked for several northwest Arkansas publications. He can be reached via email at [email protected] Opinions expressed are those of the author.

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