Health, Safety, and Scholars at Risk
The AHA’s advocacy through the end of summer focused on health and safety, with letters about COVID-19 vaccination rates, accessibility and safety precautions in planned reopenings, and aid for at-risk Afghan scholars. The battle against so-called “divisive concepts” legislation continued with letters to Ohio and Texas legislators about bills that would impact history education in the states.
AHA Issues Letter Regarding COVID-19 Vaccination Rates in Louisiana
On July 26, the AHA issued a letter to Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards and other leaders in the state, expressing “alarm that vaccination rates in the state of Louisiana remain well below the national average.” “We know that city and state officials are eager to see business travel resume and travel industry jobs and revenue rebound,” the AHA wrote, “and we trust that you will mount a vigorous public health effort to increase vaccination rates and prevent a renewed surge of COVID cases, which would necessitate the reimposition of restrictions on conferences and business travel.” The AHA wants to ensure that its annual meeting, to be held in New Orleans in January 2022, is “as safe as possible for all to attend.”
AHA Issues Letter Objecting to Social Studies Curriculum Legislation in Ohio
On July 29, the AHA issued a letter to Ohio governor Mike DeWine and the members of the state legislature, registering “strong objection to Ohio HB 322 and HB 327, acts relating to the social studies curriculum in public schools.” These bills, wrote the AHA, are “a tangle of contradictory mandates” about how history can be taught and “part of a misguided, nationally coordinated attempt to put the government in classrooms at every level from kindergarten through high school—and in the case of HB 327, through higher education—to intimidate teachers, and to indoctrinate students rather than helping them learn the inquiry-based skills that will prepare them for their future civic and professional lives.”
AHA Sends Letter to NARA Regarding Planned Reopening
On August 2, the AHA sent a letter seeking clarity on the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) planned reopening following pandemic closures and to offer the AHA’s “help in communicating with the community of history researchers.” The AHA recognized “the difficulties of operating facilities around the country during a pandemic” and encouraged NARA to maximize equitable access to its collections while continuing to make the health and safety of NARA staff its highest priority.
On August 5, the AHA issued an apology to colleagues who work in archival institutions for the misguided communication around this letter and the lack of clarity about the AHA’s ongoing conversation with NARA. “When it comes to making decisions about the operations of libraries and archives,” the AHA affirmed, it “defers to the professional expertise of librarians and archivists.”
AHA Signs On to Letter Urging Aid for Afghanistan’s Scholars, Students, Practitioners, Civil Society Leaders, and Activists
On August 17, the AHA signed on to a letter from the Scholars at Risk Network to US secretary of state Antony J. Blinken, requesting “immediate action” from the US Department of State “to save Afghanistan’s scholars, students, practitioners, civil society leaders and activists, especially women and ethnic and religious minorities.” “The eroding situation in Afghanistan poses a threat not only to the lives of our colleagues still in Afghanistan, but to the future of that country, and to the future security and honor of the United States,” the letter stated. “If we move quickly, we can go a long way towards mitigating the worst of the threats and demonstrate continuing commitment to the future of Afghanistan and its people.”
AHA Sends Letter Opposing Proposed Legislation on History Education in Texas
On August 25, the AHA wrote to Texas governor Greg Abbott and the members of the state legislature to oppose SB 3 and HB 28, introduced during the Texas legislature’s special session. “This proposed legislation threatens the integrity of history education in Texas,” the AHA wrote. The AHA “urges the Texas legislature to reject these bills, both of which seek to indoctrinate students rather than help them learn the inquiry-based skills that will prepare them for their future civic and professional lives.” The letter cited a previous AHA letter to Governor Abbott and the Texas Senate in May, an AHA statement in July, and a joint statement in June addressing similar legislative efforts that “risk infringing on the right of faculty to teach and of students to learn.”
Rebecca L. West is the operations and communications assistant at the AHA.
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