Erasure of history: Censoring America’s ubiquitous racism in school

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Lauren Puthoff

Senior Rebeca Guimarães de Oliveira solves a world problem on her online math textbook.

Lauren Puthoff, Opinion Editor

The past year has brought some much needed change to America by shining light on the difficult topics many try to ignore. It was only two years ago that much of society was unaware of what Critical Race Theory (CRT) was, and it has been in the hotspot for the past year. But the line between misconception and truth in regards to the theory has become blurred. 

CRT is about the inherent racism that is the framework of American government. Although many see this as villainization of white people, in reality, it is giving society an opportunity to alter the wrong doings from the past.

The tension between supporters and opponents can be seen in local government systems, such as Gov. Kim Reynolds banning CRT in Iowa on the basis that the theory teaches students about labels and stereotypes. This does not only prohibit how teachers can teach, but it limits how much a student can learn. This is only one of the many misinterpretations of CRT and has led to over half of the states taking action against it. Even though over 50% of states have attempted to restrict CRT, only seven of them have officially banned it, including Iowa, Florida and Idaho. 

One of these seven states has made headlines with its extremely strict laws in regards to CRT. Florida has been the latest state to ban CRT but is the first state to ban not only history lessons, but math books as well. Gov. Ron DeSantis recently rejected 54 math books because they contained topics that did not align with the legal standards. DeSantis and the Florida Department of Education saw the information in the word problems as an indoctrination of elementary students to race essentialism.

Senior Matthew Bender is a member of Students for Political Action and a passionate political advocate, “The only reason CRT is even considered an issue is because of the rhetoric being pushed by Republican candidates and lawmakers. They see it as a way to claim Democrats are ‘indoctrinating children’ or ‘making them feel bad for being white,’’ in order to scare people into voting for them,” he commented. “If math books can be rejected for supposedly containing material related to Critical Race Theory, there really is no limit. Anything involing a mention of race, sexual orientation or gender identity is on the table to be banned from schools.”

The word problems ranged from bar graphs about racial prejudice based on age and political affiliation to an entire unit based on social-emotional learning.  

The Florida Department of Education does not only have restrictions based on CRT, but they also have differing learning standards than any other state. They have created their own education content, Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking (B.E.S.T.), instead of the usual Common Core. Although the differences are miniscule, they make all the difference in regards to the education of young students.

Common Core focuses mainly on the skills, structure and analysis of core curriculum, while B.E.S.T. dedicates most of its energy to the content of it. Their standards rely on reasoning, debate and above all, the understanding of argumentative language in their early years. This new structure of learning centers attention on developing students at a young age, which would impact them more than learning these large topics at an older age. 

Although, if this curriculum is supposed to shape kids at a young age, would the department not want them to have all available information?

If their main goal is to help students develop reasoning skills, the only way to do it is to give them all of the information, instead of limiting it. By restricting the knowledge of important topics, kids are shaped to believe one side of every story.

“Critical Race Theory is important to understanding the way racism impacted our history, as well as how its effects continue to shape the present and the future. For that reason, I think banning  CRT is reckless, because it encourages people to forget the horrible things that happened and pretend that racism still doesn’t impact society today,” Bender stated. “Not teaching CRT to students might allow them to have a warped, sanitized view of the past. Without some of the fundamental theories that are now banned in Iowa, Florida and other states.” 

In Florida’s education standards there is a line that stands out but also contradicts the controlled subject matter given to students. “…The uplifting of the soul of man into the glorious light of truth, the light only by which men can be made free. To deny education to any people is one of the greatest crimes against human nature,” it reads. This quote seems to be the building block of this new curriculum, but by restricting CRT there seems to be a contradiction of the truth.

If Florida’s legislators were genuinely dedicated to truthful education, they would be teaching students about the real events of history, instead of shielding students from them. Students are taught that America was built on equality and freedom, but in reality the key building block was racism. The country started with kicking Native Americans out of their homes, capturing and enslaving Black people, yet  now the horrific events of the past have become whitewashed.

Junior Leila Assadi has seen the adverse effects of teaching history in a glamorized way,  “I can think of many people and events that we haven’t learned about factually, but yet we still celebrate them. We celebrate Christopher Columbus even though he enslaved and assaulted native people. We don’t learn about the United States’ treatment of indigenous people or the true reality of slavery, it has all been whitewashed,” she explained. “Not teaching about CRT ignores systemic racism and racism within our institutions that continue to disenfranchise people in this country. Children won’t be taught about racism in policing, poverty, incarceration, etc. instead they are blinded by the attempts of covering up the terrible aspects of this country’s past, present and future.” 

In today’s education system, textbooks teach students that racism is in the past, but in reality, racism is still relevant ‒ oftentimes just better hidden. Systemic racism has been masked for many years, but it is now being revealed due to recent events, such as the murder of George Floyd which exposed police brutaltiy towards communities of color. Such events have brought attention to issues that have been ignored for far too long and need to change.

As the nation begins to see the dire changes that need to be made, it seems as though those in power quickly dismantle the truth. With new legislation threatening legal implications towards those discussing CRT, less educators feel comfortable talking about larger issues. The instillment of fear officials have placed into the education system has caused much disillusionment to those who thought a better, more equal future was ahead of them. Instead, students are now lacking the knowledge of vital information, creating another generation that is unaware of the truth.  

No matter how difficult a discussion revolving around a tough situation is, it is better to have it rather than ignore it. Students need to be factually educated, no matter how bad the truth is. Americans believe that their country holds freedom and equality for all, but America will never reach that ideal with the racism that is ingrained into the government.