I just read the letter to the editor submitted by Jeffrey Cohen and I have some significant concerns about his agenda, and honestly, the tone of the letter. Mr. Cohen expresses alarm that the Wilmington Public Schools are teaching grade school children Critical Race Theory. CRT states that race is not biological, but rather is a social construct. There is, of course, much more to CRT, but that is its core. Why is it bad to teach children that race is a social construct and not biological?
Mr. Cohen repeatedly mentions FOIA requests he’s made. He spends a lot of time detailing email interactions that he finds objectionable. Mr. Cohen’s letter contains many of the talking points heard during confrontations at school board meetings we’re seeing video of from across the country. I do not want to see the dedicated members of Wilmington’s school board confronted in such a manner. Nor do I want to see the dedicated teachers in our schools confronted by parents who do not understand what CRT is, or what the actual content of the 1619 Project is.
Mr. Cohen laments that the school department is resisting attempts to ban teaching of CRT and 1619 Project, and that the school department wants to allow criticism of white supremacy. I struggle to understand why Mr. Cohen’s opinion is that teaching these topics and criticizing white supremacy is bad. Shouldn’t students be exposed to various theories in an age appropriate way? Why not have middle and high school students learn about the 1619 project and debate its merits? Shouldn’t students learn that American history is complicated; that people who influenced the trajectory of this country come from a variety of backgrounds, that the founding fathers were complex, complicated human beings who were capable of both greatness and great evil? Shouldn’t students learn (again, in an age appropriate way) how to contextualize historical figures and shouldn’t they be encouraged to draw their own conclusions, and criticize what those figures got wrong while praising what they got right? This is how we teach our children critical thinking.
I understand that there are people who feel that teaching the more complicated, difficult aspects of history will teach White children to believe they are oppressors and to hate themselves. No rational person wants to teach any child to experience guilt or any kind of self-loathing about something that they have no control over. Teaching children, in an age appropriate way, that diversity is valuable, that inclusion and equity are necessary, and that our history is complicated, that it contains both good and bad things, allows them to have a realistic portrait of their country, and to understand that just like individual human beings, the country is, and has always been, a work in progress. We can all grow, improve, learn and do better, and so can this country. That’s not dangerous. It’s necessary.
The people I have gotten to know in the 25 years I have lived in and loved this town are warm, decent, caring people who want what’s best for the town and for the children of the town. I care about this town and the children in it. I want to see them educated and able to understand the complicated nature of individual human beings and groups. Nothing is all good. We all have our flaws. Our country and its founders have/had their flaws too. It’s empowering to know for certain that nothing is perfect.
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