Teaching Students About Racism in America

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LETTER 1

To the Editor:

White historians once taught that Reconstruction and equal legal rights and voting rights for Black people corrupted democracy. Textbooks ignored the Tulsa race massacre and others like it. Few historians write like that anymore. We include all sides of the American story and examine racism and injustice as evolving systems of power as well as manifestations of individual prejudice.

The search to understand history is not an ideology, as Republicans claim. It is common sense. You can’t solve problems by pretending they don’t exist now or didn’t exist before. It is far too late for Republicans to impose willful ignorance on today’s students. They know that racism is a systemic problem for all of us to solve.

Michael Honey, Tacoma, Wash.

The writer teaches history at the University of Washington Tacoma and is a Harvard Radcliffe Institute fellow.

LETTER 2

To the Editor:

I am disheartened to read about the controversy over the teaching of “critical race theory,” as much of the discussion assumes that schools are indoctrination centers as opposed to institutions that develop critical thinking skills. Giving students the contemporary and historical facts would be the ideal, and let them develop their own theories based on the evidence.

However, in the post-Trump world there are no established facts upon which we agree. This is the real academic and political danger that we face. When we cannot agree on facts or evidence, then we cannot agree on solutions to problems. We cannot even discuss them!

Give students the relevant information and let them decide for themselves whether this country is infested with “systemic oppression and implicit bias.”

Larry Hoffner, New York

The writer is a retired public high school teacher.

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