New Racial Incidents in Prague Show We Need More, Not Less, Racial History Education | Opinion
In the early 1990s, when I was a freshman at a rural Minnesota high school, there was an incident in which fans of the visiting team shouted racial epithets at Asian-American female players in the league. girls’ basketball team at my school.
Fast forward 30 years, and this kind of racist behavior is still happening in Minnesota high schools.
Two alleged incidents involving New Prague High School have recently attracted media attention. One in which New Prague fans yelled racist taunts at athletes from the visiting Robbinsdale Cooper women’s basketball team, and another when New Prague fans made racist comments to the players of the St. Louis Park men’s hockey team.
These incidents indicate that there is a problem in our state. As the editorial board of Tribune of the Stars writes in its March 10 editorial“…[T]they suggest that something horrible and ugly lurks in some Minnesota schools and communities.
This horrible and ugly something – and let’s just call it what it is: racism and white supremacy – must be directly addressed and actively fought in the education system in Minnesota and across the country. We need to strengthen and improve curricula on topics such as racism and social injustice, hold more discussions about equity and inclusion, and work harder to foster a sense of empathy and tolerance in our students.
Meanwhile, in neighboring South Dakota, Governor Kristi Noem recently signed into law a bill banning public universities from using training that causes “discomfort” because of their race. Tennessee recently passed a law restricting classroom discussions about race, identifying 14 banned concepts as too controversial to include in its curriculum.
A teaching that promotes a truthful consideration of our nation’s past provokes no more racial hatred than an honest reflection on one’s personal conduct provokes self-hatred.
The idea of banning something – especially at the university level – because it might cause “discomfort” is ridiculously absurd. That’s the whole point of education: to learn, experience, read and be confronted with new ideas, situations and concepts that challenge us – cause “discomfort” if you will – to think critically, to consider new perspectives and broaden our knowledge.
As a history teacher, my job is to teach history accurately and honestly, in a way that inspires critical thinking about issues of race and social injustice (among many other issues) and encourages conversations open and honest about equity and inclusion. To teach anything other than a national history that includes both our successes and our failures would be teaching propaganda, not history.
Educators like me who advocate an honest and accurate history curriculum are attacked by critics as teaching Critical Race Theory (CRT). Attempts to shed light on these critics that the CRT is college-level legal theory not taught in K-12 schools fall on deaf ears. Out of malice or willful ignorance, they continue to attack teachers who strive to teach true history by indoctrinating them with hateful ideologies.
Another line of attack is to accuse educators of teaching curricula that promote racial blame or hatred. This accusation is also so absurd that it is laughable. A teaching that promotes a truthful consideration of our nation’s past and an open conversation about the current state of affairs provokes no more racial hatred than an honest reflection on one’s personal conduct provokes self-hatred.
One of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church is the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. A believer is invited to spend time in quiet reflection, to consider “what I have done and what I have failed to do,” and then to seek forgiveness and reconciliation through confession. This does not translate into self-hatred. On the contrary, it promotes self-improvement and encourages a person to do things right and do better in the future.
Likewise, a truthful consideration of our nation’s history encourages reflection on where our country has fallen short of its professed ideals and how we, the people, can improve in the future. It is part of the ongoing struggle to achieve the most perfect union envisioned by the framers of the Constitution. They understood that perfection was not already achieved, but was a goal to be continually pursued.
In light of these recent racial incidents, it seems that efforts to limit or restrict topics and discussions about race in our schools and in our curriculum – whether in South Dakota, Tennessee or here in Minnesota – are a step in the wrong direction. . If we don’t talk or think about “inconvenient” matters, we cannot improve our conduct or come closer to realizing this more perfect union.
Thirty years with little progress is too long.