Sometimes a state lawmaker proposes a bill and your immediate response is, “What’s up with that?” Then you look deeper into the issue and find some true merit in the measure.
Then there are proposals like SB1331, the bill that would require community college and university faculty to provide alternative assignments to students who object to any course material. No matter how long we look at the motivation and potential impact of this bill, we just cannot see why the concept was offered for consideration at the Legislature.
While proponents say the bill protects students from being exposed to unsavory influences, what it actually does is inhibit learning. If students are not challenged to think about the real issues in the world around them, about the consequences of actions on society, then they are really not students.
The impact of this bill is to cocoon our future leaders from acknowledging there is a world beyond their doorstep, concepts outside of their current mind set — in essence, it tells them that if they do not personally endorse a line of thought, an idea, a lifestyle, factual data or a scientific theory, then it is not worth knowing about.
But ignorance is a dark cave, and knowledge is light.
Step away from the overwhelming philosophical reasons why this bill should never have been written and look at its impracticality: Separate lesson plans for individual students will degrade the college experience, because instructors will have to invest more time preparing them and thus have less time for actual teaching. And as was pointed out by Maria Hesse, president of Chandler-Gilbert Community College and a former teacher herself, the pandemonium of a classroom where students are on differing lesson plans would lead to an unfocused, confusing learning environment.
The bill also undermines the authority of the professionals who were appointed or elected to set the higher education mission and then carry it out.
In the end, the bill is unnecessary simply because the market already provides options that allow students to avoid concepts and ideas with which they do not agree. A course syllabus is typically provided on the first day of class, and students can opt out of the class without penalty if they find any of the work objectionable. Religious institutions that steer clear of content some students may find objectionable are also an option.
Sen. Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, the bill’s sponsor, said he will try to tack on an amendment narrowing the bill’s focus to pornography before it comes up for a floor vote. We contend this ill-conceived bill should be rejected in any form.