St. Louis Teachers: "Soul of History" at Stake in New History Wars

Historians in the News
tags: education, culture war, teaching history

St. Louis teachers are on the front lines of a heated battle over whether to include discussions about systemic racism in their teaching plans.

In school districts across the St. Louis region, some white parents are demanding that teachers stop talking about race and identity in the classroom. At board meetings and legislative hearings, they’ve armed themselves with large poster boards denouncing three highly contested words: critical race theory.

But teachers from all over the region say they’re not teaching that theory, which is about acknowledging that racism is deeply ingrained in American life. Rather, the complex premise is found in graduate-level courses.

Instead, educators say they're presenting a more complete history of America to their students.

“I do fear for the state of education. I feel like we are at war for the soul of education in our public schools,” said Christina Sneed, English and social studies curriculum instructor for the University City School District.

History classes that have long pushed Black people to the margins are now being challenged by teachers across the country — igniting debate. Teachers in St. Louis and across the nation are facing a backlash from some white parents over their efforts to address the impact of systemic racism on Black people today.

“What’s happening in the classroom is not critical race theory, but giving space and giving voice to other perspectives,” said Joseph Kibler, a history teacher at Hazelwood West High School. “It’s not being taught in a confrontational way. It’s just things that happened that weren’t taught before are being taught now.”

History has long been taught from a white-centered perspective, said LaGarrett King, associate professor of social studies education at the University of Missouri. This narrow view of the nation’s past has an impact, King said.

“History is about identity. History is about citizenship,” said King, founder of the Carter Center for K-12 Black History, which helps schools develop curriculum. “What does it say to our citizens in the classroom when we only teach one perspective?”

Read entire article at St. Louis Public Radio

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