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From Vivett Dukes
The teaching of Critical Race Theory (CRT) is under attack in schools all over the United States.
As an educator, we don’t have to know every detail about an event or be an expert on said topic in order to hold space for our students to safely discuss their viewpoints and feelings. As a part of our training and ongoing professional development, we should be well-versed in vetting resources to present reputable information to our students to help them form, bolster, and/or negate their perspectives. We should know how to facilitate a conversation amongst our students in our classroom.
Let me be more direct: I am specifically referring to the refusal of teachers to have courageous conversations around Black Lives Matter, hate crimes against the AAPI community, and the civil unrest taking place between Israel and Palestine. This is not just the work of social studies teachers. These are human rights issues that impact us all, our students included.
Ignoring critical discussions on race is harmful to students
Opting out of these class discussions is simply not an option. It never really was, yet so many teachers, in their complacent and privileged mindsets, make conscious decisions to refrain from helping students become global citizens by teaching them critical thinking and analytical skills because it’s “too hard” or because it “doesn’t affect them” or because it’s “not a part of their content’s curriculum scope and sequence” or because — and this one especially irks me — “they don’t have the time to discuss it.”
Am I to understand that it is the sole plight of Black teachers to teach the Black experience? Asian teachers to teach the Asian experience? Palestinian and Jewish teachers to teach their experiences? Those are rhetorical questions for which I already know the answers. The racially and socio-economically divided demographics of our schools’ student bodies gave it away. The segregation in the American education system is firmly in place.
We witnessed during the Trump administrations’ reign how the Pulitzer Prize winning 1619 Project was vilified. In Smithtown, Long Island, right-wing, ultra-conservative hate groups like Save Our Schools have reared their ugly heads and raised their voices loudly to stop the teaching of systemic racism and other oppressive, colonizing entities because it is “harmful” to their almost exclusively White student population.
Some teachers appear relieved to see CRT banned
This fight to uphold white supremacist values and beliefs that perpetuate psychological, emotional, and physical violence against Black and Brown students is being played out on a national front in schools of all classifications throughout the United States. Why am I not seeing more teachers outraged by this?
My inclination is to believe that the lack of outcry is over- shadowed by the even bigger and collective exhale of teachers — White teachers — who are relieved by the denouncement of culturally relevant, responsive, and sustainable curriculum. These are teachers who have never had a desire to and who never will teach about anything not based in White privilege.
This apathetic approach to education, in my years of experience, is too often rooted in the educators own lack of learning. It’s rooted in their racist, sexist, homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic beliefs.
If you’re an educator who has let this year go by without attending to the issues and events that matter most to our shared humanity and that directly or indirectly impact your students, their families, and their communities, then there’s no longer room for you in the proverbial inn. Exit stage left. The show is over. Your leading role has been cancelled without renewal.
Enough is enough.
Vivett Dukes is an educator and social activist.