Alicia, Concord High School
I cannot count the nights I have spent crouched over a mathematics book, notes spread out around me like an odd, full skirt trying to understand the confounding concepts of Algebra. Apparently, I might get to kiss these nights goodbye.
Thanks to Representative Hoell and HB 542, I may no longer have to worry about math notes. Although such an extreme scenario seems tempting, it is not one I wish for, as HB 542 will have negative consequences for students as well as for teachers and society as a whole.
When I was younger and involved in community theatre, we staged the play Inherit the Wind which told of the Scopes Monkey Trial and the prosecution of an educator who taught the theory of evolution. I couldn’t comprehend having information, especially science, withheld from students.
Now it appears I will no longer have such a distant connection with intellectual censorship. With Hoell’s new law, students may be denied access to information, not by the state, as in the Scopes Trial, but by their own parents. Not just racy material, or offensive material, but the concrete science of evolution. As little as parents may like the theory of evolution, it still must be taught.
The goals of a school are unquestionable: to create educated, thoughtful and productive members of society. Parents expect that by contributing tax dollars and sending their children to school, these children will graduate as aware young adults. How can any child gain a well rounded perspective of the world when their very education is being cut and sewn by objecting parents into a protective veil they will wear their entire lives?
Parents do not want the innocence of their children torn away, perhaps because a novel includes offensive language. Have they ever set foot in a high school? It’s impossible to go a week, let alone four years, without hearing some obscene or insulting word in the hallways between classes. I wonder how parents could object to language in a book, where it is used carefully and to prove a point, yet not be incensed by the thoughtless cursing any teen hears. Swearing, unfortunately, is part of our society. Drugs are too. So is sex. But by refusing to allow a student to be exposed to drug or sex education, parents increase the risk of their child becoming involved with either. A good education can create a bright future for any kid, but parents have to allow it to.
If Hoell’s bill were repealed, I would never escape the clutches of that monster I call mathematics. I would be assured, however, that my classmates and I would be getting an unbiased, inclusive education, one perfected over the years by true educators.
Thatcher, Concord High School
As a high school student, I am a huge fan of HB 542.This bill, which was recently passed, vetoed, and then passed again by a veto override, would allow parents to remove their children from any class involving material they find objectionable. How could anyone not be in favor of this bill?
If the parents of the boy who sits next to me in math object to the way their son is learning calculus, or if the parents of the girl who sits next to me in civics object to their daughter learning about the structure of the New Hampshire government, then who am I to judge?
I think that one of the things that makes New Hampshire so great is our emphasis on personal freedom. I don’t at all mind that some students will use the new law as a way to opt-out of classes that they don’t easily earn high marks in, dumbing down our educational system. I also certainly don’t mind that the school will have to use scarce teacher and administration working hours to develop a new curriculum for each student whose parents object to a class. Finally, I have no objection whatsoever to the inconsistent and disruptive classroom atmosphere that will be created by this bill, as students flit in and out of classes. HB 542 was a well-thought out bill, and it will make a fantastic law.
Although I am a vocal supporter of HB 542, I do think there is one major flaw. It simply doesn’t go far enough. Why should parents be the only ones who get to object to a school’s curriculum? We should allow all New Hampshire citizens to object to the curriculum. If an individual in Epsom doesn’t like how the Concord School District teaches evolution, then they should be able to object to the material. After this objection, Concord School District would have to create an entirely new science curriculum, one that does not include the offensive and controversial theory of evolution.
And why should New Hampshire citizens be allowed to object only to curriculum? I propose passage of a bill allowing any citizen to opt out of any law or regulation that they deem objectionable. Anyone running late for work could simply decide that speed limits represent an unfair law that conflicts with his or her moral code. New Hampshire citizens could gain freedom to loot, steal, and even kill!
No person should be forced to learn material or follow laws that conflicts with their values. I am overjoyed that the New Hampshire Legislature overrode the Governor’s veto of HB 542, and hope that they continue passing legislation of similar caliber.
Nolan, Concord High School
Bill HB 542 requires that schools allow parents to anonymously protest materials given to their children. It mandates that educators design new lesson plans for these learners instead of relying on curriculum that committees and boards, trying to keep the interests of all students in mind, have slaved over to supply. This new law lets parents censor opinion and controversial argument from developing minds when it is the job of teachers to supply an education that will allow a student to grow individually, academically and personally.
My school district has proven itself by giving students options, allowing us to take initiative to challenge ourselves and push the threshold of everyday public education.
In middle school, guided by my own interests and internal beliefs, I was given reading options and chose both the type of content I wanted to read and which authors would give it to me. Once I reached high school, however, reading certain books became more mandatory though students were always encouraged to talk to teachers and advocate for themselves if there was an issue. This system produced a sturdy foundation for my beliefs as an adolescent because high school required me to challenge those beliefs deeply, opening my eyes to how others thought.
Allowing parents to opt their children out of certain readings and activities will shelter those children from the real world. The world is not full of unilateral beliefs but beliefs that challenge and contradict one another, building a resilient, competitive society. Parents who censor a child’s high school experience are setting that child up for shock upon entry into the real world.
Parents already have options. Those with strong religious beliefs who want a child to grow in a school where these are strictly taught should send their child to a charter or private school. A child who would like to follow a particular interest in a public school can design an independent study and work with a teacher to create a learning opportunity.
A child has the right to a public education and a right to information. It is not the job of the public school to encourage bias. Public schools try and do give well rounded and multilateral opinions in education content; they should maintain the integrity of the reality in this world full of different people all searching for a precious relic: knowledge.
Students, how do you feel about HB 542?
Email your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org