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Friday, April 15, 2022

Blake Filippi's mentor pushes right-wing education scheme

Overwhelming opposition to Rep Morgan’s anti-trans anti-education bill during hearing

By Steve Ahlquist

I’m starting the story here, near the end, with this remarkable testimony from a Classical High School student Representative Patricia Morgan claims is not getting the education they need:

As a student of Providence Public Schools and a Junior at Classical High School, I am strongly opposed to house bill 7539 introduced by Patricia Morgan. I would like to speak about a specific provision in the bill that says “the sexualization of children in schools shall be prohibited” and then goes on to say that you are prohibited from speaking about sexual identities, gender dysphoria, and alternative lifestyles. I want to touch on something that many people giving testimony here today have also touched on.

I want to comment on the perception of gay and queer people as inherently sexual and pedophilic because that attitude has a long history in this country. It is reflective of the attitude and rhetoric during the Reagan administration in the eighties, one that allowed hundreds of thousands of and gay people to die of AIDs. It is very old rhetoric and very out outdated, and very much reflects why this bill should not be passed.

We can argue about biology or metaphysics or what a woman is, but regardless of someone’s opinion about that, I still exist as a trans person. Other trans people exist and other queer people exist. If you really care about the safety of children in Rhode Island schools, then you would know that Black and Hispanic youth in Providence are overrepresented in arrest data; that there are social services that [students] need in Providence public schools that funding is not allocated for; that queer and trans youth kill themselves at much higher rates than other youth; and that aiming to limit the ability of educators to have nuanced discussions about contemporary issues that affect young people will only result in dead children.

This was one of several remarkable testimonies from people from across Rhode Island in opposition to the bill. All the testimony is available in videos here:

The House Lounge was packed to overflowing, and another dozen plus people were gathered in a nearby overflow room, in opposition to Representative Patricia Morgan (Republican, District 26, West Warwick)’s anti-trans, anti-public education bill, H7539. But before that bill could be heard – for the first 45 minutes of the House Education Committee hearing – every other bill on the docket was to be dealt with first.

Even as the committee hearing got underway with other business, nearly two dozen activists, mostly LGBTQ high school students and their supporters, gathered to chant and speak out against Representative Morgan’s bill.

See highlights of the rally here:

As the rally began to wind down, Representative Morgan took the microphone to introduce and defend H7539. The energy of the young activists in the rotunda had carried down the hallways and could be heard in the committee room. Undeterred, Representative Morgan began her presentation on her bill.

“I am seeking to get our school establishment, our educational establishment, to abandon the activist racial and sexualization of our school curriculum and once again focus on its core mission, which is high expectations for our students, a focus on academic excellence, teaching learning skills for mastery, and maximizing the potential of every child so that they can have successful adult lives,” said Representative Morgan.

For Representative Morgan, this means eliminating educational materials that deal honestly with issues of race and gender in favor of materials that forefront traditional (white, protestant, male) values.

To justify her position, Representative Morgan made a series of claims that ranged from the banal to the outrageous. Some of what she said was factually incorrect – what could be classified as lies.

  • “I reject the notion that white and Asian children do not enjoy the same protections of the Civil Rights Act as any other race.”
  • “In our schools today, children are being made responsible for historical acts over which they have no connection.”
  • “The books that I’ve been familiar with, the anthologies and high quality history books, have been replaced now with paperbacks. And those paperbacks have not been chosen for high quality academic work. They are activist literature. They are activist books.”
  • “My bill does not ban any books, except pornography, or any content. [From the bill: “Schools shall not use the 1619 Project curriculum or any other curricula that pursues a predominantly ideological and/or activist outcome.”]
  • “Teachers are control persons in a child’s life. Kids look up to them. Whatever a teacher says, they’ll believe it because they like their teachers.”
  • “Teachers who seek to insert insert themselves between children and parents in the formation of … values are indoctrinating. They are not teaching.”
  • “You know in the workplaces of today, if a male supervisor so much as compliments a female subordinate on how she looks – ‘you look nice in that dress’ – he can be fired.”
  • “Teachers think that it is part of their job to delve into the intimate and very personal sexual emotions and feelings and lives of minors. It is inappropriate and quite frankly it’s creepy.”
  • “Teachers at Classical High School organized [a] walkout – two! – in which they didn’t have to teach because they set the students outside. So much better to let the students out early rather than teach them.” [“The teachers at Classical did not organize the protest,” said a student during their testimony, correcting Representative Morgan. “Please do not give [the teachers] any credit, okay? Student organizers did that.” [See Video 29 below and see here for overage of one of those rallies.]]

Speaking about reactions to her bill, Representative Morgan said, “I have been threatened. I have received the most vulgar and obscene texts and voicemails.” Upon entering the State House Representative Morgan was accompanied by two Capitol Police Officers.

After her introduction of the bill, the Committee Chair, Representative Joseph McNamara (Democrat, District 19, Warwick), told Representative Morgan that in his opinion, the text of the bill, if passed, violates an anti-bullying statute passed by the General Assembly some number of years ago. Chair McNamara offered Representative Morgan a chance to withdraw her bill for some rewrites.

“Absolutely not!” exclaimed Representative Morgan.