The juxtaposition of the launch of the Laconia Daily Sun's Digital Public Square and NH House hearings on HB544 during the same week is remarkable.  The Digital Public Square provides a forum for civil, civic dialogue.  That latter is an act "relative to the propagation of divisive topics" that limits public schools and others from discussing topics related to racism and sexism.  The former seeks to build understanding among those with different points of view and perhaps even find common ground.  The latter tries to enforce particular perspectives.  So much for "Live Free or Die".   Which is the better path for us to take?

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(6) comments


When I was in Laconia High School (graduated in 1959). I took American history my Junior year. Back then, there was little critical thinking or discussion. Mostly it was memorizing dates, battles, and learning events that added to history. Rarely were differing view points offered. Thus the Digital Public Square concept wouldn’t be accepted then. Later I read, Peoples History of the United States by Howard Zinn which opened my eyes, like an aha moment. I became more critical in my acceptance of what authors presented. If HB544 passes we will be back to offering propaganda, or whatever the power in the community wants to teach. Having different perspectives and common ground will offer a variety of choices. Of course, “conspiracy theories,” falsehoods and beliefs rather than facts should not pervade. The better path for me would be the Digital Public Square which has a forum for civil, civic dialogue to combat the divisive divide in which we have now.


I was fortunate to go to Holderness School for my high school ('64) and had two remarkable history courses taught by Don Henderson and Don Bakke. They were document-based history courses which relied on original texts to enabled students to learn by reading all sides of the debates. It taught me the value of primary source material. I also took debating which taught me to understand both sides of a question and be prepared to defend it.


As an educator in one local district, and parent and board member in Laconia, I see education through a variety of lenses. While I am not necessarily surprised such legislation arose here because it has been proposed elsewhere, I'm more frustrated that the stated rationale is to prevent discussion (or "indoctrination" as stated during this week's hearing) of racial and sexist discrimination. Schools do not "indoctrinate" students with one point of view. Curricula are written to challenge assumptions and understandings. Teachers are certified professionals that are trained to enhance discussion rather than dictate point of view. The fact that the bill would raise an issue with sharing the multi-cultural experiences that make up our society is directly counter to the mission of our educational system. We should be raising critical thinkers, capable of contributing to our wider society. Regardless of the intentions of any legislators involved, I continue to perceive our state as losing focus on improving the quality and equity of education for all students throughout the state.

Eric Herr Staff
Eric Herr

Since posting on this topic I've learned of more legislative efforts to restrict access to information. Currently, HB373 "prohibits the department of environmental services from participating discussions of any state, regional, or national low carbon fuel standards program". And in the Federal Government, the Dickey Amendment, first legislated in 1996 and regularly since, restricted the CDC from using funds to advocate or promote gun control which has had the effect of halting all CDC research on gun violence. I suppose one way to enforce uniformity is to hold information and research hostage.


I was shocked when I saw the bill appear ... and then I guess not given then tenor of things. Ultimately, the bill is an attempt to muzzle people speaking truth to power.. it is just starting with the children. We all grow fertilized by uncomfortable ideas. The opposite is Fahrenheit 451

Eric Herr Staff
Eric Herr

Doris Kearns Goodwin has a wonderful expression: we "absorb" a point of view". If alternative points of view are muzzled we will collapse into mindless unity. Progress depends on alternative points of view. Just think of the evolution of the right to vote and the different points of view motivating the change from properties white men, to white men, to naturalized citizens, to women, the blacks, to 18 year olds.

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