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Perspective: Banning critical thought

Alissa De Leva

The great educator, Marva Collins, stated, “Education is painful and not gained by playing games.” What this means is that in the process of education, knowledge can encourage students to challenge traditional stories and explanations about society, which can be painful. Since the late 1960s, ethnic studies, multicultural education, and more recently social justice education have challenged us to consider not alternate history, but obscured history and ideas that challenge our assumptions, but those attempts have been met with resistance and political games.

This past year, nine states passed laws meant to ban the teaching of anti-racism and Critical Race Theory. Recently, Florida moved forward a bill that states students shouldn’t be made to “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin.” Hmmm… made to feel any form of psychological distress? Any?

I find this funny because for decades – if not longer – minoritized Americans have been protesting against the psychological distress felt from curriculum erasure, disproportionate disciplinary actions, and lowered expectations, among many other concerns. Where were politicians to protect those non-White kids’ psychological discomfort?

Perhaps if we incorporated White anti-racist activism throughout history we can help everyone see that being white alone does not make one racist or a white supremacist. For real. The stories of John Fee, the Grimke sisters, Virginia Foster Durr, Jim Zwerg, Viola Liuzzo, or Heather Heyer can show that with being white comes a choice, a choice to resist racism or reinforce it. Perhaps the law should require exploration of the interracial struggle against racism, not obscure it, turning that psychological discomfort to empowerment and hope for all students.

I am Joseph Flynn and that is my perspective.

Joseph Flynn is the executive director for equity and inclusion in the Division of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and an associate professor of curriculum and instruction.