Parents have the right to be vocal

Around the country, parents are vocally challenging curricula related to race issues in the K-12 schools of their children and on their school boards. Not a few of these curricula contain elements taken from Critical Race Theory, which separates at least two races into two categories: “oppressed” and “oppressors.”

My local newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, ran an op-ed article, “Why St. Louis-area classrooms need more open discussions about race.” The authors are two St. Louis-based women: Sienna Ruiz, a research coordinator at the Washington University School of Medicine, and Akilah Collins-Anderson, working on her doctoral degree in public health sciences at Washington University. The article ended with this sentence: “Schools should provide critical thinking tools about race because it shapes everyone’s lives, whether parents accept it or not”—an exceptionally bold statement. The obvious question it raises is, “Are the ‘critical thinking tools’ that parents must accept unbiased and fair?”

First, it needs to be firmly stated that the public schools’ main purpose is to teach basic subjects as thoroughly as possible to prepare students for their futures. Traditionally, this has meant giving them the knowledge and skills to serve them well for either a vocation or higher education’s demands as well as to enhance citizenship.

This type of education takes time and demands sufficient priority. Students should graduate with basic English and math skills, and knowledge of science and both national and world histories. No one should need remedial reading classes in college if K-12 schools accomplish their purpose. Adding issue-centered courses should not diminish time spent on core subjects.

Some schools, though, are already promoting sexual or gender issues—issues that are controversial based on parental and religious beliefs. Likewise, many race-oriented issues are especially controversial. Those influenced by Critical Race Theory focus heavily on Black and White populations even though the United States may be the most racially diverse of all nations.

This exaggerated focus dismisses the fact that students are multi-racial, not simply Black or White. It’s like forcing one to watch black and white movies when technicolor is not only available, but it also represents the most enjoyable of movies. It’s passé and terribly narrow-minded to remain stuck on one binary issue of race when we are so beyond that issue. It’s unfair to students who are Asian, Hispanic, African, Middle Eastern, or Native American—and all the many subsets of those broad classifications.

A good history class should be a source for teaching U.S. history accurately and clearly—a mixed bag of good and evil when it comes to race. And true to the human condition, good and evil are represented in all races.

Take slavery, for instance. Generally, it is a black-and-white subject about Black and White people, and it is somewhat one-sided. This fact does not in any way deny or dismiss the terrible injustices the Black race has experienced because those injustices weren’t merely individual and private. They were enacted, binding laws.

At the same time, slavery was multi-racial as to the “oppressors,” beginning in Africa with those kidnapping, enslaving, and selling millions of Black Africans into slavery to the Americas and to the Middle East. The majority of these “oppressors” were Black African tribesmen and Muslim Arabs. In the United States, slave owners were White, Black, and Native American; in fact, thousands of all three races owned Black slaves. Slave ownership was multi-racial, but we rarely, if ever, hear of such facts. There were very wealthy Black slave owners, as there were White slave owners. These facts are corroborated by various Black historians and scholars.

If and when we realize slave owners were multi-racial, it can only aid in lessening, if not diminishing, racial animosity resulting from an inaccurately taught historical narrative. Theories that solely portray Blacks as “oppressed” and Whites as “oppressors” do a great disservice to the historical record and to race relationships. Throughout world history, the “oppressed” and “oppressors” represent all races. I didn’t learn these facts until very late in life. A dear friend and colleague of mine, a Black African and former Muslim from Zanzibar, told his children before he died that his family possessed slaves and were in the slave-trading business.

As to racism, all races engage in negatively stereotyping other races. In reality, entire races are not monolithic; within them, they all contain “oppressed” and “oppressors,” and they all contain groups or individuals who bear hatred toward other races and others who do not. This too is a historical condition of the human race. No child should come away from any class or curriculum promoting shame due to his or her skin color.

Back to the original question: “Are the ‘critical thinking tools’ mentioned ‘unbiased and fair’?” Will they resist dealing with only two races? Will they resist pitting one race against another race?

The Critical Race Theory mentioned in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article is basically critical of only one race. How can that engender fair and unbiased discussion about race? How can that teach children mutual respect for any or all races?

Parents are right to be concerned about how their children are indoctrinated and should be vocal about this with the school and school board. Both Black and White parents are upset. The Washington University authors' statement that “. . . whether parents accept it or not” speaks volumes when it comes to confirming that genuine “critical thinking tools” aren’t the primary aim. Rather, as parents fear, indoctrination appears to be the goal.

Perhaps academia’s elite needs to be reminded of the song in South Pacific:

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,

Before you are six, or seven or eight.

To hate all the people your relatives hate,

You’ve got to be carefully taught.

No curricula should offend parents of any race or cause their children to be shamed. Those days should never be repeated.

Image: Students by the CDC. Unsplash license.

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