Teaching Actual History is NOT Critical Race Theory

Norman Rockwell’s The Problem We All Live With: Ruby Bridges

A parents’ organization in Williamson County, TN is hoping to exploit a newly passed Tennessee law forbidding the teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in order to stop schools from using certain books that are part of Wit & Wisdom, an English language arts curriculum for elementary school kids in K-5. According to an article in The Tennessean, criticism of the curriculum is based on the claim that it teaches CRT and/or the material in the books that are part of the curriculum is inappropriate for elementary-aged children.

Robin Steenman, leader of the Williamson County chapter of Moms for Liberty, the parents’ organization opposed to Wit & Wisdom, brought some books about which the group is concerned to the attention of the Williamson County Commission’s education committee last May. Two of the books that raised red flags for Moms for Liberty are “Ruby Bridges Goes to School,” written by Ruby Bridges herself, and “Separate is Never Equal” by Duncan Tonatiuh. “Ruby Bridges Goes to School,” as you might expect, is about the 1960 controversy, sometimes violent, surrounding the admission of six-year-old Ruby to an all-White elementary school in New Orleans. “Separate is Never Equal” is about the lesser-known true story of eight-year-old Sylvia Mendez and her family’s challenge of school segregation laws in California in 1947, a full seven years before the Supreme Court ruled on Brown v. Board of Education.

Regarding “Ruby Bridges Goes to School,” and quoting The Tennessean article, Steenman argued that “the mention of ‘a large crowd of angry white people who didn’t want Black children in a white school’ too harshly delineated between Black and white people, and that the book didn’t offer ‘redemption’ at its end.” Regarding “Separate is Never Equal” and, again, quoting The Tennessean, Steenman claimed, “reading about the difference between formerly white and Mexican schools, as well as the idea that Mexican people, like Mendez and her family, were seen as ‘not smart’ and ‘dirty,’ forces certain beliefs into the minds of second graders who spend weeks on the book.”

Now, I’ve not read either book. But, think about what Steenman and Moms for Liberty are claiming here. They are claiming that six and eight-year-old children ought not be taught about the historical struggles of a six and an eight-year-old child because they are too young to handle it. Golly! One might consider, just as a possible retort, that if six-year-old Ruby and eight-year-old Sylvia were expected to handle living through these experiences back in the forties and sixties, maybe six and eight-year-old kids in 2021 ought to be able to handle learning about them in the safety of their classrooms.

Here we have the “soft bigotry of low expectations” applied to our children. The claim here is that our kids are too sensitive, too innocent, to fragile to learn about the actual historical struggles engaged in by children their own age decades ago. Ruby and Sylvia, even at their young age, were strong, persistent, determined to win the day for a just cause. Our children today, poor things, are so weak that expecting them to learn about Ruby and Sylvia’s histories is too much for them. This is pathetic! Let’s be clear that learning the history of race relations and civil rights in this country is not the same thing as a program like CRT, that too often teaches that White kids are racists by nature and Black and Hispanic kids are victims of their seven-year-old White school mates’ oppression. It is critical that we make this distinction, and that parents rabid over CRT don’t exploit legitimate criticism of CRT to oppose teaching history and the important lessons learned from history. The American philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We must teach our history, all of it, the good and the bad, so our children will be well equipped to take what is best about our nation and build on it to reform what is worst.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

3 thoughts on “Teaching Actual History is NOT Critical Race Theory

  1. Though I taught for many years, I did so knowing what was happening in the field, eventually leaving. While there, we (my peers and I) did what we could to truly teach “good stuff”, create supplemental lessons and projects, and really get the children thinking for themselves with responsibility. Then, “they” turned the children against responsibility, real learning, good teachers, and thinking for themselves, propagandizing them (This wasn’t the children’s fault, but the fault of any adults who allow this.). One thing I’ve said to many: the one who smiles is not always your friend. Think for yourselves.. Parents must home school, and if they have one decent school nearby (perhaps private), they must seriously sift what’s there, talk with their children when they get home, and monitor everything. Better if they just home school, then sift through the propaganda and teach real history, science, and the rest. It’s not important to be the best teacher, just decent, and let the youth grow up without brainwashing. Without being turned against their parents.

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    1. We homeschooled for the first eight years, then we had to switch to public schools for health reasons and because we couldn’t afford the local Catholic high school at the time. I had to email my middle daughter’s history teacher asking him why he was teaching my child to hate her country. He said that wasn’t his intent, and my daughter said he calmed down a bit after that. Our youngest is now in Catholic high school.
      I taught my girls the history of the civil rights movement. They were able to understand that horrible things were done by White people back then without identifying themselves with those people. That’s the trouble today, and the implication of Moms for Liberty’s complaints, even if they don’t realize it. CRT and Moms for Liberty are arguing that we’re first and foremost not individuals but members of a racial group. So, a 7 year old White child is an oppressor, and he or she will not be able to distinguish between the White people who were angry about Ruby Bridges and themselves. Both claims are spurious and unjust.

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  2. I hope the best to you and yours. I must add one thing, very necessary, as clarity for any readers. Terrible things have been done by all races (every race), sometimes to their own, and this has historical significances. We can learn why things happened in the past, but we have to undo the propaganda we’ve all grown up with, myself included. What I’ve learned to do, which I kind of had all my life, though I was very naive, was to think for myself. Never, under any circumstances, believe what we’re taught without our own observations, ponderings, readings, and with the forethought that we will do our own research, separating propaganda, rhetoric, from the real, whatever the real is. **[I’ve even taught this to others: not to buy into what I’m teaching, but consider, then as they get older, to do their own research so they’re thinking for themselves.]. In this, I have studied history, then pondering why what I learned wasn’t taught when we were growing up. So, I realized, an effort was made in my youth not to provide us with the best history, whether they realized it or not.

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