North Carolina Teachers Weigh in on the New History WarsBreaking News
tags: culture war, teaching history, critical race theory
Asheville High School history teacher Kim Fink-Adams is a critical thinker; always has been. It stands to reason that when the sociology and anthropology major — who has taught school for more than 15 years — gets questions from her students, she encourages critical thinking.
So, as critical race theory has gained steam ahead of the 2021-22 school year, and its detractors have made it a controversial topic with legislation to prevent the subject from being taught in North Carolina public schools, Fink-Adams says she has not changed course; she teaches all aspects. It is only fair, she says.
“If I didn’t (teach them this), I would not be a good educator,” she said. “If you’re going to educate children, you’re going to give them the entirety of the story. You’re not going to leave out the parts that make some people uncomfortable. By leaving out those parts, you’re going to discount the experiences of others.”
Critical race theory, an academic concept established in the mid-1970s mostly by Derrick Bell, a Harvard Law professor, asserts society's most powerful structures — such as the legal system — are inherently racist.
Some educators think holding the view point that systems are systemically racist does not do justice to the vast opportunities available in the United States.
Terry Stoops, a former high school teacher and current director of the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation, said using the lens of critical race theory in schools could be detrimental to students.
Fink-Adams, however, said aspects of the theory come out naturally when teaching history.
“I do teach my students that to look at all perspectives of history, we have to look at the institutions, and we have to look at what happened in our country,” she said. “It’s very clear if you begin with the transatlantic trafficking of humans from Africa, if you look at that and look at what happened with Jim Crow and the belief system that still exists and the policies that are still made, it’s not … a theory. It’s looking at the reality of our country’s history, and things that still happen.”
Fink-Adams said many of her students are astounded when she details slavery, the Jim Crow era or the Trail of Tears, saying they've never heard about many of the things she's teaching.
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