We need to let teachers teach and let students learn.
Between community members railing against school boards, demanding they remove the word “race” from teachers’ lips and legislators threatening teachers with a $5,000 fine for failing to teach “both sides” of slavery, Arizona classrooms are under siege.
Do parents believe teachers are indoctrinating their children, telling them what to think? In fact, the opposite is true as standards have evolved to include multiple voices and perspectives, to engage students in critical thinking vs. memorizing facts and dates.
A history teacher might present a lesson about Reconstruction. Using primary sources from notable universities or the Library of Congress, the teacher presents the 14th Amendment and then poses a compelling question: does the 14th amendment still affect the lives of Black Americans today? If so, how? Instead of giving answers, the teacher urges students to research the question and build a case to support their opinions. This lesson is taught as an inquiry with lasting impact.
As an advocate for teaching historical truth in schools, I know that the best teachers put powerful texts in front of students and invite them to investigate those texts, to dispute them and to draw their own conclusions.
Teachers don’t tell students what to think; they teach them how to think. Parents and legislators could take a lesson from the very people they are trying to shut down.
Co-founder of the 1619 Project Advocates of Arizona