Speaking at a recent hearing on yet another copy-cat bill in South Carolina to censor curriculum (targeting Critical Race Theory [CRT]), Dr. Susi Long, professor of early childhood education (University of South Carolina) offered a measured but pointed dismantling of the partisan misinformation in this legislation:
Not to oversimplify, but Long clarifies that CRT is not taught in K-12 (or even K-16) education, adding specifically that the laundry list of issues addressed in these bills are not how teachers teach or treat our students.
Last summer, I emphasized similar points, adding what does occur in schools in terms of race and equity. At one point, Long calmly suggests legislators should be learning from educators instead of legislating what teachers can and cannot teach, what students can and cannot learn.
One of the great ironies of efforts to ban CRT (beyond that CRT isn’t something taught in K-12 education) is that a key tenet of CRT is in order to overcome racism/inequity, everyone needs to be better educated, better informed—exactly what teachers offer students across the U.S.
Here, then, is my modest proposal: National days of teaching truth to power.
As a recent post of mine details, students and teachers are vividly aware of the rise in censorship as well as the potential negative consequences of those bans, such as self-censorship grounded in fear.
Will, for example, Paul Laurence Dunbar be erased from classrooms or will teachers be fired for honoring Dunbar’s voice that continues to resonate in 2022?:
Let’s identify days when we will target lessons and texts that are being misrepresented purely for political gain.
Lessons on race and racism, lessons on academic freedom and censorship, lessons on gender and sexuality—ultimately lessons one what it means to be educated in a country that claims to be free.
This semester I plan to dedicate a day in my courses to Langston Hughes’s “Let America Be America Again.”
Like Dunbar’s poem reflecting the realities of being Black during Reconstruction and Jim Crow, Hughes creates a complex unpacking of many minoritized groups during the 1930s:
And Hughes also resonates today in his confronting of the failures of the American Dream, an ideal not yet realized even in 2022:
“The land that never has been yet” is facing us all now in the U.S. as Republicans are in denial and have turned to the antithesis of freedom, censorship, in order to cling to power.
As educators, as professionals charged with honoring the dignity of every student’s mind, we have only truth to break the cycle of oppressive power.
Teaching truth is the key. Can we do this, and do this now?
As James Baldwin implored, “[T]he time is always now.”
If you will join me, I will identify dates and lessons below, updating over the coming weeks with full lesson plans, texts being taught, etc.
P.L. Thomas, Furman University
Lesson: “Let America Be America Again,” Langston Hughes