New Anoka-Hennepin Controversial Topics Proposal

24 Jan

The new proposal takes out the “controversial topics” terminology and instead frames the issue as

Political, religious, social, or economic issues may become contentious in a learning environment in which conflicting views are held by a broad segment of people in our schools, our community, and the nation.

This nicely tautological statement (issues about which there is contention in the community may become contentious issues) is followed by a policy that is non-committal at best:

It is not the District’s role to take positions on these issues. Teachers and educational support staff shall not attempt in the course of their professional duties to persuade students to adopt or reject any particular viewpoint with respect to these issues.

Curricular discussions of such issues shall be appropriate to the maturity and developmental level of students; be of significance to course content; and be presented in an impartial, balanced and objective manner, allowing respectful exchange of varying points of view. Lessons shall be designed to help students think critically and develop decision-making skills and techniques for examining and understanding differing opinions.

In the course of discussions of such issues, district staff shall affirm the dignity and selfworth of all students, regardless of their race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex/gender, marital status, disability, status with regard to public assistance, sexual orientation, age, family care leave status or veteran status.

It seems that as written the policy would not allow a science teacher to argue for the existence of evolution,  a Drama teacher to argue for the value of Tony Kutchner’s work, or a sex ed. teacher to argue for the use of condoms when engaging in premarital sex.  They instead must present these issues “in an impartial, balanced and objective manner.”

The school district is in something of a catch-22.  If it over-defines the issue it ends up making a policy that is specifically offensive to some particular group; if it under-defines the issue, it either ends up with something meaningless or which presents a broad threat to free speech and quality education.

Here at Void, we will be on the edge of our seats waiting for a resolution.

See also: Alternative Proposal


One Response to “New Anoka-Hennepin Controversial Topics Proposal”


  1. Anoka-Hennepin Debate Subject of Rolling Stone Article « Void for Vagueness - February 7, 2012

    […] responded with a call to stop “vicious debate.”  Interestingly this seems to be what their proposals attempt to accomplish. To which friend of the Void Robert Ingersoll might respond, “ Perhaps […]

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