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Our View: Study history, or …

The Union Editorial Board

Those who don’t study history are doomed to … something something.

That’s how it seems when viewing the recent presentation about critical race theory to the Nevada Joint Union High School District Board of Trustees.

There are problems on all sides with this issue du jour. The people presenting, from the new group Protecting American Ideals, appear to have a narrow definition of CRT. The board itself has an issue, as it almost didn’t allow the presentation to occur.

And the people who attended can shoulder a bit of blame, as they weren’t there to listen to the presentation. This was about participating in the pageant, not learning something new.

Our minds are made up, regardless of which side you’re on. Even this editorial board, which certainly couldn’t reach consensus on an issue this contentious, is included in this critique.

It’s almost like this has happened before, and we didn’t learn our lesson.

First, before going any farther, we need to figure out what CRT is, because too many people have too many definitions. Is it a specific graduate level course that K-12 graders never see, or does it seep into our classrooms in phrases like “culturally responsive teaching” and “social and emotional learning?” Are we indoctrinating our children into hating America? Are we educating young minds objectively about the good and the bad our ancestors wrought? Do we know what’s happening in our schools, or do we have an inkling of what goes on in today’s classrooms?

If the acronym is going to stick, perhaps as code for a full concept, we should determine our own definition. Maybe it’s a program that promotes inclusion, equity and fairness, regardless of race or creed. The program could teach that patriotism can simultaneously be supporting your government and protesting against it. It could hold our founding fathers up as archetypes to emulate, while also acknowledging their flaws and admitting they, too, were all too human.

Yes, politics inevitably will stick to this program, just as it still sticks to documents like the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. That’s unavoidable. In a democratic republic, it’s hoped we could fashion a program that no one is happy with, but everyone can live with.

You know, like the founding fathers did.

Is the problem actually what our children are learning, or is it that “CRT” has become the new boogeyman? Could we rename it, and solve much of this problem? What if we just call it “history”?

Is there any question that throughout time, groups of people have oppressed other groups because of their skin color or religion? Can we agree on a curriculum that adequately and appropriately teaches that to our children, while simultaneously not turning kids into victims and oppressors, or making someone feel guilty?

Honestly, probably not. That’s because, deep down, this nationwide discussion is more than what we’re teaching our kids. To quote George Orwell, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

CRT isn’t truly about what kids are learning today. It’s about what future generations will believe, and what they teach their children.

We’re currently fighting a battle with an outcome we’ll never know, because it will long outlive us. However, despite its longevity, CRT makes for a wedge issue today to get people to the polls.

And, just maybe, that’s what all the outrage is really about.

Sure, we want our children to learn about history without the politics of the day tainting it. We don’t want our kids saddled with the sins of the past. We want a vibrant new generation to leave school armed with knowledge and critical thinking skills, questioning a country they love when needed and fighting for it when required.

But we also want people who think like us going to the polls.

The CRT discussion comes directly on the heels of last year’s unrest over Black Lives Matter protests and police shootings. It looms over a 30-year period in which only one Republican president, elected in our unique Electoral College system, has won the popular vote. It seethes as segments of our population, regardless of race or creed or anything, watch the country and world change irrevocably.

All this has happened before, albeit in different forms. We have the puzzle pieces before us.

We can learn from this, and chart a path forward, if only we could … something something.

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com

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