Teaching about Racism Is Essential for Education

Elected officials who campaigned against Critical Theory of Race (CRT), the study of how social structures perpetuate racial inequality and injustice, are being sworn in across the U.S. These candidates have captured the attention of voters slandering the CRT, which has become a lifesaver to describe any teaching on racial injustice. According to these candidates, the lessons on Native American genocide, slavery, segregation and systemic racism would harm children. Defining its divisive inclusion, some states have enacted legislation that completely bans CRT from school curricula.

This regressive agenda threatens children’s education by propagating a falsified view of reality in which American history and culture are the result of white virtue. It is part of a larger agenda to avoid any truth that makes some people uncomfortable, which sometimes allows for active misinformation, such as creationism. Children are particularly susceptible to misinformation, as Melinda Wenner Moyer writes in “Schooled in Lies”.

It is imperative that young people learn about equity and social justice so that they can thrive in our increasingly global, multilingual and multicultural society. As students become aware of the structural origins of inequality, they better understand the fundamentals of American society. They are also better equipped to understand, interpret and integrate into their worldviews the science they learn in their classrooms and experience in their life.

Meditating on racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic disparities helps students understand, for example, why COVID death rates among Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans were much higher than those of whites at the start of the pandemic. They can better understand why people of color are much more likely to be subjected to the ravages of pollution and climate change or how a legacy of US science that experimented on blacks and Native Americans may have led to distrust of doctors and health care.

Removing conversations about race and society removes truth and reality from education. This political interference is nothing new: Political and cultural ideologues have fought for years to remove topics such as evolution, Earth history, and sex education from classrooms and textbooks, despite evidence that education sex helps prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, which evolution explains all life on Earth and the world is a few thousand years older.

Many of the school districts that brought in anti-CRT council members are the same ones who refuse to impose face masks, despite evidence that face masks can prevent the spread of COVID. These school officials also rail against vaccine warrants as a violation of personal choice. It is the same priority of individuals over the community and a discomfort with the harsh truths that characterize the movement against the teaching of true history.

Fortunately, efforts to curtail children’s education face strong opposition. The American Civil Liberties Union describes initiatives to crack down on discussions of racism in classrooms as “anathema to free speech”. And the US Department of Education is discussing a set of American history and civics standards that include introducing “racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse perspectives in teaching and learning.” In between are teachers who are trying to educate children during a pandemic.

While many parents of school-aged children have supported anti-CRT campaigns, voters with no connection to the class have contributed significantly to overturning this election. Parents and educators need to bring the conversation back to teaching children about reality. EdAllies, a Minnesota-based nonprofit education support organization, is encouraging teachers to contact parents and administrators to explain the need for anti-racist content in their classes, as a way to build community support.

Across the United States, school board meetings are taken over by the fear of the bogeyman of inclusion. And after our recent elections, more council members have the power to take action against the lessons they dislike. Today, tomorrow, and as long as these elected officials remain in office, children and teachers will pay the price for incomplete education. We must work for a school experience that includes narratives of discrimination, social justice and inequality as truths we can learn from so that history does not repeat itself.

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