State lawmaker accuses some educators of promoting socialism

By: - January 18, 2023 5:46 pm

A House subcommittee advanced a bill Wednesday to require high schools to teach about ideologies that conflict with freedom and democracy. (Photo illustration via Canva)

An Iowa House subcommittee advanced a bill Wednesday that would require high school teachers to hold class discussion comparing political ideologies “that conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy that were essential to the founding of the United States.”

House File 12 specifically mentions communism and totalitarianism. Iowa Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, who co-sponsored the bill, said he and other lawmakers have heard “a lot” of high school and college students “singing the praises of socialism.”

He mused about the potential sources of that information — perhaps social media, television and movies — but said educators are likely contributing as well.

Rep. Steve Holt, R-Denison, addressed reporters on Feb. 8, 2022. (Photo by Katie Akin/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

“I know from doing the reading that I do and the research that I do that there are some in our education establishment — and when I say some, I believe it’s a small number — but I believe there are some in our education establishment that seem to be embracing some of these things today, even though these ideologies we know have unleashed unspeakable horrors on humanity,” Holt said Wednesday.

The bill would add a requirement for social studies teachers to have a “comparative discussion of political ideologies” to a section of the Iowa Code that requires those teachers to educate students about the U.S. Constitution and how to vote.

The requirements apply to public schools, accredited private schools and charter schools.


No groups have declared opposition to the bill, but lobbyists who attended the subcommittee meeting were wary of it.

“Generally speaking, we’re not fans of the Legislature writing or heavily weighing in on curriculum,” said Melissa Peterson, who represents the Iowa State Education Association. “We think that that is best left up to local school boards. However, we believe most of the items contained in this legislation are already taking place in those existing curriculum requirements.”

Margaret Buckton, who represents Rural School Advocates of Iowa and the Urban Education Network of Iowa, agreed: “I have every confidence this is already being taught.”

Holt said his opinion about the need for the legislation is informed by his wife, a government teacher at Denison High School, who has seen changing attitudes among students.

“She has increasingly been concerned about some of the attitudes she sees coming from folks today,” Holt said. He added she believes those attitudes are coming from other sources, not teachers at Denison High School.

Editor’s note:  This article has been updated with a clarification from Holt about his wife’s remarks on the source of student attitudes.


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Jared Strong
Jared Strong

Senior reporter Jared Strong has written about Iowans and the important issues that affect them for more than 15 years, previously for the Carroll Times Herald and the Des Moines Register. His investigative work exposing police misconduct has notched several state and national awards. He is a longtime trustee of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, which fights for open records and open government. He is a lifelong Iowan and has lived mostly in rural western parts of the state.