“Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
It’s a phrase we hear over and over again in regards to politics, war and race. Lessons from history may not always ward off doom, but they can provide insights into the present and even the future. But what happens if the history we have learned is not only insufficient, but fundamentally wrong?
It’s no secret that our country’s history has been whitewashed to make our role in slavery and treatment of Indigenous people more palatable. Pretending otherwise is an insult to our citizens who still bear the burden of hundreds of years of oppression. It’s also an insult to our students, denying them an opportunity to learn and grow. Many of us recognize we owe it to our children to do better when presented with new information, to teach them the unvarnished history of their country, and prepare them to be good global citizens once they leave the confines of our small community by learning about different customs, religions, and how to recognize, address and overcome racial divides.
Sadly, there is a small faction of residents in the Chariho district who feel differently. One vocal minority on Facebook has gone so far as to create a group decrying the development of Chariho’s anti-racism task force and the consideration of teaching critical race theory in our schools in order to provide a more comprehensive history of race and racism in our country. Even more concerning, they have singled out and targeted specific teachers who they claim are politicizing education simply by signaling their commitment to diversity, inclusivity and respect for all students. One post in this group excoriates a ceramics teacher for stating “Happy Diwali” in a tweet encouraging her followers to learn more about their Festival of Lights and traditions. Others have complained about using yoga or meditation to help our children better handle stress, because they believe it is a religious teaching. It’s not. Westernized yoga has become a mainstream, non-secular practice that simply promotes mindfulness and physical well-being.
Why has learning become so divisive? It is disappointing to see that there are some in our community so afraid of learning about other cultures that they feel it necessary to threaten and intimidate our educators who work so hard to prepare our youth for life outside of our community. The very educators who have overcome multiple challenges to support our students during this very difficult year.
There will be a lot of noise the next few months from this Facebook group and your General Assembly legislators regarding race, religion, and division. Please recognize it for what it is, simply noise from people who do not respect our children and their intelligence and inquisitiveness, nor our teachers who are willing to provide a robust and full education that honors each and every one of their students. We have the chance to finally learn from history, and to teach history, properly. Don’t let them take it from us.