Don’t toss out history when responding to schools’ diversity, equity and inclusion plans
School board meetings across the nation over the past two years have gone from quiet and uninteresting to standing-room-only events with impassioned pleas.
Parents and school board members are battling over the use of critical race theory in school systems. Diversity, equity, and inclusion perspectives and programs have also sparked heated debates. Headlines splashed across the nation announced that the National School Board Association called parents domestic terrorists, and schools promote authors and consultants who teach things such as “All white people are racist.”
Parents have every right to ask what their children are being taught, and taxpayers without children in schools should do the same. There are legitimate concerns about school curricula and what schools are teaching. But the helpful critical spirit can morph into something entirely different.
A June 8, 2021, Yahoo news story reported that parents at a Tennessee school district board meeting were upset because its schools used a book about Ruby Bridges.
Bridges, then six years old, was the first Black child to be sent to an all-white school for the purpose of integration. Attending school in 1960, little Ruby was met with a crowd of angry white adults, and law enforcement was called to ensure she wasn’t harmed.
The ahistorical approach is not educational.
It’s good that parents lobby to ensure kids are educated and not indoctrinated in our schools. But they should be careful not to dismiss events that actually happened. Instead we should learn and grow from them.
So offering an education about our nation’s historical sins of slavery and racism is valuable. And then there’s using the problem of racism to promote a divisive ideology.
One of the mantras repeated by DEI/CRT advocates is that our government and economic institutions are systemically racist. If that were true, what should happen to our form of government and (largely) free-market economic system? Here’s a hint: Nearly half (48%) of adults age 18-29 have a favorable opinion of socialism, according to a 2018 Gallup poll.
Grand Ledge Public Schools paid Dorinda Carter Andrews, a professor at Michigan State University who works in critical race theory, to be a consultant on ways to implement diversity, equity and inclusion in the district.
Andrews stated in 2016 at a Flint community meeting, “Labor force and capitalism drives the way we do education. And capitalism in and of itself is racist.”
Notice she did not say, “Capitalists have done racist things,” or even, “People within the capitalist system are racist.” No, she said, “Capitalism is racist.”
In that spirit, equity, not equality, is now the key term. As used within DEI circles, equity means ensuring the same outcomes. Little wonder that its current use comes from advocates of socialism.
People deserve equal opportunities, not government attempts to force equal outcomes. That will never work.
The Michigan Education Association, a teachers union boasting 120,000 members, is also pushing indoctrination in the K-12 system. There is a link on the union’s website to the Center For Leadership and Learning Book Studies, which recommends that teachers read “White Fragility,” by Robin DiAngelo. In it, DiAngelo states that white supremacy is “the bedrock of our society and institutions.” She adds, “All white people are invested in and collude with racism.”
What happens when individuals who believe “all white people are racist” and “capitalism is racist” start teaching children? You have one guess. As ridiculous as it may be, DiAngelo’s themes are touted as “educational material” within schools.
Many parents are leery of DEI and CRT. Rightly so. They ought also to differentiate between an ideology and fact-based historical accounts about racism. We haven’t always been told the full story of those who fought for freedom.
Most schools teach about slavery and the Civil Rights Movement. Even so, important details of historical figures and even whole events, were left out of the education many of us received as students.
For example, many of us did not know until recently about the Tulsa Massacre.
After World War I, there was a community of affluent Black professionals who created what became known as Black Wall Street. After an incident involving a Black man and a white woman in 1921 — the details are hazy and uncertain — a mob of white residents burned to the ground 35 blocks of the successful Black business district. Many died, though the number is not clear.
Ruby Bridges and Black Wall Street are part of our nation’s history. They should be taught. Black citizens did suffer, and they persevered against difficulties.
But teaching that all white people, our government, and economic system is racist is a faulty perception projected onto innocent minds. We should all understand the difference.
Jamie A. Hope is assistant managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.