Are we protecting the children? • St Pete Catalyst
Once upon a time, in a very, very distant former British colony, a book for primary schools that contained the story and illustration of a black child being washed by several white people determined to get rid of black . They had never seen a black person. The child caught a cold and died.
My 92-year-old mother, a retired teacher, remembers this story well. Although it was not a book attributed to me, I still remember the illustration and the sadness I felt.
Decades Later, My Daughter Would Confess She Was Uncomfortable Reading kill a mockingbird, which was awarded in high school. These days, she advocates for various books in her children’s schools, books that include blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians, and other often overlooked groups, not as perennial victims, but as achievers doing extraordinary things and like ordinary people.
I thought about all of this as the book ban sweeps the nation and Florida’s “individual liberty” bill is just weeks away from being signed into law. The bill, in part, ostensibly seeks to protect the state’s children from the indoctrination and guilt of nasty bits of the nation’s tried and true history. This would include, I suspect, a record of servitude, heinous treatment of human beings, hatred and discrimination that reverberates to this day.
Here are some highlights of the bill:
It makes it illegal to “subject” any student or employee of a public school “to any training or instruction that espouses, promotes, advances, inculcates or compels that individual to believe” that “a person, by reason of his race, color, national origin, or gender is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.
While it allows for age-appropriate discussion and teaching of “sexism, slavery, racial oppression, racial segregation, and racial discrimination…this teaching and programs cannot be used to indoctrinate or persuade students to adopt a particular point of view incompatible with the principles of the individual. freedom or state academic standards.
It should be noted that the instruction cannot cause “a person, by reason of his race, color, sex or national origin”, to believe that he is “personally responsible and must feel guilt , anguish or other forms of psychological distress because of actions, in which the person had no part, committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, national origin or sex .
State Senator Darryl Rouson expressed disappointment with the bill.
“It creates a chilling factor for those who want to teach the truth about American history, which contains black history. One of the stories I talked about during my debate on the bill was: how do you teach about the largest slave revolt in the history of the United States, which happened in Louisiana at Whitney Plantation, where two to 300 slaves rioted because they were hungry for freedom? Two whites were killed, but more than 95 slaves were killed and dozens of slaves were beheaded and their heads placed on posts by the roadside as a warning to other slaves seeking freedom,” said he declared.
“How do you teach this without some students feeling uncomfortable, when it’s a truth in American history? We examine the motivations for why legislation is introduced and often this portends future impact. I don’t think the motivation was good in drafting and tabling this bill.
It is true that the bill does not prohibit the teaching of African American history, but I wonder what happens when a parent decides to question any area of these teachings because ‘they cause their child to ‘feel guilty, anxiety or other forms of psychological distress. Will the bill encourage parents to oppose class visits to the Woodson African American Museum of Florida in St. Petersburg’s historic black neighborhood? Or even the Florida Holocaust Museum in downtown St. Petersburg? Could they try to keep their children from feeling bad about unpleasant moments in the story?
Who can blame teachers if they are reluctant to freely discuss topics such as the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II or the cruelty of government boarding schools in the lives of Native Americans?
“I’m disappointed that we don’t trust our teachers,” Rouson said. “I was raised by two educators who challenged us to think critically and form our own opinions based on teaching truth, based on creative presentation of history by professional instructors. To me, this bill means that education has become more tainted.
That may be true, but it is surely a signal for black parents and other parents of color, religious minorities and allies to redouble their efforts to teach their children the history of this country unequivocally. Might be time to stop by the Lynching Memorial near Tropicana Field, visit the Woodson Museum at 22n/a Street S, and in the Historic District, walk the African American Heritage Trail. Next, head to the Holocaust Museum.
The controversial bill, Rouson said, gives the Woodson and Holocaust museums “a lofty and prominent purpose.”
There is more that can be done to combat efforts to downplay the history of much of the country’s population. Buy or borrow books that tell the story of your own community and that of other communities and discuss them with your children. Talk to family members about their experiences during segregation, with racism or anti-Semitism and struggles as immigrants. Share your successes. Spread your stories at holiday gatherings, family reunions, and on social media. Congregations should also play a role. They have also historically functioned as cultural centers where communities teach and maintain their languages, traditions and history.
While politicians devise ways to keep children from feeling bad or guilty about their country’s history, they seem oblivious to the fact that not everything can be fixed by law.
What to do with these students who imitate mean behavior from their parents and other adults around them – teasing about hair, skin color, outdated clothes, disability, sexuality, poor neighborhood being “unsafe” a classmate, what they eat and believe, and even how they speak?
Who is responsible for setting a good example?
We all want to protect the children we love, but we can’t protect them from everything. This is often how they learn valuable lessons of kindness and tolerance.
Let us assume parental responsibility and empower our children with the shield of knowledge by teaching them their history and that of others, the thoughtfulness to embrace the diversity of humanity, and the character to persevere through thick and thin.