What good has ever come from avoiding — or forbidding — teaching and talking about history and current events in school? Not much.
Yet, over half a dozen states recently passed laws banning teachers from including vital discussions about race and racism in America. Other states and school boards are following suit.
The result: important lessons are getting shelved. For example, critics called for schools to ditch an autobiography about Ruby Bridges who integrated her New Orleans school, saying it made white students feel uncomfortable. This an important story about a part of America’s history, its progress, commitment to equality and resilience.
Likewise, critics argued a book about an immigrant family’s effort to integrate California schools promotes prejudice among children, despite its clear message: Racism is wrong.
It’s hard to believe it’s come to this. Book banning is anti-American, and these efforts threaten to seriously undermine K-12 education, the well-being of our students and democracy.
Proponents of the laws are pushing for them under the guise of opposing a legal and academic framework, Critical Race Theory. It is more likely a reactionary stance to recent racial justice movements that exposed inequities in U.S. institutions, including schools.
The research is clear that talking about race is beneficial for all students. A new resource from The Aspen Institute explains the research base surrounding race in education and why the new laws are harmful.
For starters, saying children don’t see race is simply untrue. Infants as young as 9 months old show awareness of race and ethnicity, and preschool children fully understand social categories like race and gender. A study commissioned by Sesame Workshop showed 86% of children ages 6-11 think people in the U.S. are treated unfairly based on race.