Thankfully, I’m retired from teaching. Republican state legislators’ peculiar obsession with “critical race theory” makes one wonder just what can be safely taught. Although I taught university math, it is unrealistic to think even it could avoid race to be relevant — e.g., when choosing data sets for testing interesting statistical hypotheses.
After retiring 23 years ago, I planned to quench my thirst for U.S. history by reading biographies of all presidents who served before my adulthood. So far I’ve read comprehensive biographies of 83% of them, all involving race somehow. But it’s difficult to find comprehensive ones for such presidents as Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce. Why? Because they are considered largely inconsequential, primarily because they shirked responsibility for solving the foremost issue of their time: slavery.
While growing up in Salem, Oregon, a secret “gentleman’s agreement” among realtors excluded people of color. Chemawa Indian School, just 5 miles north, forced assimilation of its students into white culture. Oregon had Black exclusion laws from 1844 until 1926 and was a Ku Klux Klan hotbed in the early 20th century. I certainly never learned any of this during my 1940s-‘50s K-12 education in Salem. So I’m anxious to learn all that I’ve missed!
Obviously, race is huge in our history. Severely limiting it in our educational curricula is blatantly deceptive and unjust, and fuels racism. Republican efforts to control what we learn is just another step towards dictatorship, like ex-President Donald Trump pursues, using lies and scapegoats to consolidate power.