“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
I’ve been a teacher for over four decades, but recently heard an educational term on a national news broadcast that I have never heard before …critical race theory!
After doing my own research, I discovered that the theory was formulated by law students in the 1970’s highlighting the irregularities in the court system when it came to sentencing and making plea bargains for people of color and whites. In the years that followed, the theory expanded beyond the legal community and into the realm of the educational establishment. The key assumptions of the theory are that racism is a common experience faced by people of color in the United States, that it is institutional in our country and that it benefits whites.
Apparently, several states recently passed legislation banning critical race theory from our nation’s public schools, while other states have embraced it. The idea of keeping classrooms free of critical race theory has become a conservative rallying cry, while the meaning of it has been distorted. Critics of the theory are condemning it without having read or studied it for fear of losing power or influence and privilege. The bigger issue seems to be denying the truth about racism and white privilege in America.
There has been criticism of the Biden administration for proposing that a federal grant program for teaching U.S. history prioritize programs that “reflect the diversity, identities, histories, contributions, and experiences of all students” and “create inclusive, supportive, and identity-safe learning environments.” In response, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and 38 other Senate Republicans sent a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona complaining that the changes reflect “a politicized and divisive agenda.” Additionally, he added that “racial discrimination is an issue the country has been working on for 200-and-some-odd years and is still working on it. However, it’s not part of the core underpinning of what American civic education ought to be about.”
My views are polar opposite to those of conservative legislators in regards to educational reform and racial and cultural equity in public schools. Now is the time when we as a nation must acknowledge the wrongdoings of our past...from slavery to current practices of white supremecy and inequity in social justice. We must committ to making revisions in our current practices and those changes need to begin within our nation’s schools.
Since education is not explicitly outlined in the US Constitution, it is one of the social functions relegated to individual states to enact laws designed to contour the educational systems for their citizens. Last September, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission released a report describing inequities in Michigan’s K-12 schools and detailing specific recommendations for action that policy makers and educators can implement to make achieving educational equity a priority in all Michigan schools. Specific obstacles identified to equity in education included:
All students need to see themselves in the books they read in order to develop a deeper understanding of and connection to the text. While the racial make-up of Gratiot County is 92% white and 8% a combination of Hispanic, African American, Native American and Asian students, more books featuring racial and cultural diversity are beginning to accumulate on school bookshelves throughout the county.
I’ve heard some Gratiot County residents say, “If our county is mostly white, why do our students have to read about other racial groups and cultures?” My response to those who pose that question would be, “ Derek Chauvin, the police officer who murdered George Floyd, went to school in Oakdale, Minnesota... a community with an almost identical racial make-up as Gratiot County. I wonder if George Floyd would be alive today, if cultural diversity had been embraced in his elementary school?”
Nothing can be changed until it is faced.