By Corinne Murdock |
On Wednesday, the Arizona Senate passed HB2008, which reforms the state’s high school learning standards to cast a positive light on America’s founding principles while exploring the dangers of other governing ideologies. The bill now heads to the House for review before submission to Governor Doug Ducey for final approval.
Under the bill, the State Board of Education (SBE) must update high school social studies standards to incorporate a comparative discussion of political ideologies. Communism and totalitarianism will be juxtaposed with American ideology, such as its founding principles of freedom and democracy.
“The academic standards prescribed by the state board in social studies shall include personal finance, American civics education, and a comparative discussion of political ideologies, such as communism and totalitarianism, that conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy that are essential to the founding principles of the United States,” states the bill. (emphasis added to reflect the new legislative language)
Specifically, HB2008 requires the learning standards to rely on source texts, oral histories from victims of ideologies like communism and totalitarianism. The SBE would develop resources from the Arizona State University (ASU) School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, the University of Arizona (UArizona) Center for Philosophy of Freedom, and the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute for American Democracy.
The SBE would have until this New Year’s Eve to establish a list of “portraits in patriotism” oral history resources supplementing the civic education and social studies standards.
The bill almost didn’t make it out of the Senate. It failed just the day before, on Tuesday, when Majority Leader Rick Gray (R-Sun City) joined Senate Democrats in opposing it since State Senators Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) and Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale) weren’t able to vote. However, all Republican senators offered unified support for the bill the next day.
HB2008 passed in the House along party lines, with unanimous opposition from Democrats and unanimous support from Republicans.
Democrats have pushed back against efforts to portray communism in a negative light. Some, like State Representative and congressional candidate Daniel Hernandez (D-Tucson), have argued that ideologies like white nationalism pose a bigger threat than communism.
HB2008’s sponsor, State Representative Quang Nguyen (R-Prescott Valley), was a victim of communism himself. At 12 years old, Nguyen fled from the Communist Party of Vietnam a week before the Fall of Saigon in April 1975.
HB2008 was Nguyen making good on his promise late last year to ensure students learn about the evils of what he and others, such as House Majority Leader Ben Toma (R-Peoria), had suffered. Toma was nine years old when he emigrated from Romania in the 1980s, ruled at the time by communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu.