Students need to stand up for their right to learn real history, writes Steve Lopes. (Getty Images)
The Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of widening the conversation about how public policies affect the day-to-day lives of people throughout our state. Steve Lopes was a union organizer for Kansas-NEA for 30 years.
As a former teacher, I strongly oppose the use of CRT in public school classrooms – but I’m not talking about critical race theory.
I’m talking about Crappy Rejection Teaching, the concerted effort of self-serving political forces to deny our students a quality objective education. Crappy Rejection Teaching has a long history of misleading students and coercing teachers to avert truth in favor of selective political agendas.
This CRT is an intentional effort by adults with weird personal agendas, usually based on dubious sources, to promote their prejudiced views at the expense of our children’s future success. They are forcing this generation, our future leaders, to accept a dumbed down curriculum and limited opportunities. We have a responsibility for teaching our children facts and truth, however uncomfortable.
This current assault on quality public education is just the latest in ongoing efforts by the ignorance lobby to promote their personal beliefs as valid, and therefore imperative for everyone.
My first experience with a CRT-like assault was as a suburban Boston high school teacher in the 1970s, when our district was accused of promoting secular humanism. My teacher colleagues scratched their heads in disbelief. What is this stuff? The leader of our local teachers’ union suggested a way to respond.
We forgave our accusers and thanked them for bringing this to our attention, and after further investigation, several of us accepted this secular humanism as a meaningful personal belief.
In the 1980s, as a field organizer for Kansas NEA, I frequently represented members facing challenges for teaching objectionable stuff. In one district, a local pastor who denied evolution, urged the school board to promote the teaching of Creationism. The biology teacher presented an evidence-based defense of evolution that persuaded the board to retain the science curriculum.
In 1999, there was a concerted effort to force the Kansas State Board of Education to include intelligent design in school science standards. In response, educators statewide organized Kansas Citizens for Science to demand evidence-based standards.
In 2005, the anti-science majority on the state board held bogus hearings during which KCFS exposed the flawed logic of intelligent design. These hearings were documented in the film “Kansas vs. Darwin.”
Additionally, KCFS efforts led to the subsequent election of a majority of board members who endorsed the scientific method.
On Nov. 10, 2021, this Associated Press headline appeared: “Kansas District Orders 29 Books Removed From Circulation.” The Goddard school district had placed holds on this lengthy list of books in their school libraries based on a single parent objection to “language he found offensive.” The district ultimately reinstated the books.
The history of book banning to restrict learning goes back to the origin of books and continues to this day.
Now, the critical race theory scare tactics have arrived in Kansas.
Partisans have been diverting the public’s attention from developing and implementing effective solutions that address real education challenges in favor of unfounded propaganda. Recently seven local school board candidates running against the teaching of critical race theory were elected in Kansas communities.
With the state and national GOP leveraging dubious science to energize their base, the anticipated Democratic Party response has been … limited to nonexistent.
The kids are all right
How do we respond to this craziness in the absence of a countervailing force? We must ask the group with the most to lose from this craziness: our children.
I have a proposal based on my faith in Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2012).
This generation, which will suffer most from this disinformation campaign, should rise and say: “STOP” on behalf of themselves and our future.
Activists at public schools and colleges could form interest groups — perhaps with names like: “Teach Us the Truth About History” — and demand evidence-based curricula in their classrooms.
If you’re a young person who agrees with this assessment, let the adults in your life know that the actions of extremists are damaging their future opportunities. Spread the word, not out of partisanship but because we all deserve to know the truth about our country and its past.
Americans have stood up to Crappy Rejection Teaching in the past. We can do it again.
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