A local teacher teaches his students that there are only two possible explanations for the economic and educational discrepancies between white people and people of color ("What CRT looks like in my classroom," Opinion Exchange, July 17).In his class, you learn that people of color either lack the ability to succeed or are perfectly capable of success but that systemic racism holds them back.
What he fails to comprehend is the effect his class will have on his students of color.The only two conclusions he allows them to reach are either: "I lack the ability, so why bother trying?" or "The system is rigged against me, so why bother trying?"
In my opinion, his students would be much better served by hearing that when the Irish, Poles, Slavs, Italians, Catholics, Jews, etc., etc., etc., came to this country, they were confronted with prejudice and animosity and distrust and had to work like heck to overcome it, and so will you.
Jack Kohler, Plymouth
I read with great interest the Sundayletter to the editor "Pros and cons of slogans — and the lesson of history." The writer rightly points outthe proliferation of catchphrases that have become more central to our national conversation. They can inspire and call people to action, but they also can oversimplify, demean and mislead the issues for the people reading them. At times it seems like we are becoming a bumper-sticker democracy, which is not a sound or solid base for an already fragile system.
The teaching of critical race theory is a case in point. I was not aware of the specifics of this theory when I taught American history for 20 years several decades ago. I tried to teach about our strengths and weaknesses and victories and defeats. Hopefully I gave the students an opportunity to honor our heroes and learn from our mistakes so we will be a better country in the future. I certainly wasn't trying to make them feel guilty about those mistakes.
But schools can only do so much to develop attitudes toward race. It begins at home and continues with life experiences outside of school. The writer's quote from a Holocaust survivor says it so well: "You are not guilty of what happened back then. But you become guilty if you refuse to listen to what happened." This is a great motto for all of us to follow.
John Crosby, Minneapolis
Bill Boegeman's "What CRT looks like in my classroom" should be required reading for all history teachers.
It is said that the victors always write history, which leads to a poor rendition of facts and truth. I don't fully understand why the conservative mind-set is against a truthful account of history, but this column may allay those fears. The study of history is necessary because we need to understand how our current condition has been determined by what has come before. The past is not even past, because what we have now is a result of the past that we're dealing with in the present.
In order to thrive as a nation we need to clear up the disfavor about CRT. The facts may be a little difficult to handle, but this task must be done in order for our young people to prepare for the future and not make the same mistakes.Boegeman's piece is well written, and he explained CRT masterfully.
Robert French, Minneapolis
There is a class of argument known as logical fallacy. One member of that class is the false dichotomy. Unfortunately, members of Boegeman's social studies class will not be treated to that level of logical discernment. Instead, they apparently learn that there are only two possible explanations for disparities of outcome between racial groups. The first one he describes as actual racial differences — an easy option to dispense with, leaving his only other possibility: socially contrived racism as a founding principle of this country.
But this is a false dichotomy. There are a broad spectrum of other possible explanations for the disparate outcomes Boegeman cites, including religious differences, geographic differences, even — gasp — the clannish propensity of ethnic groups to band together and create — or retain — their unique cultural traditions. But he doesn't want you to know about those alternative explanations. No, it's much more acceptable in the faculty lounge these days to parade one's CRT credentials. And much easier than teaching logic.
Stephen Grittman, Buffalo
Good teachers teach well-documented facts and the critical-thinking skills needed to analyze and evaluate them. They do not teach just those facts that support a popular or uncontroversial opinion. Good teachers encourage students' active involvement in learning through reading, discussion and questioning regarding these facts. This is not new, nor is it indoctrination, intimidation or coercion. It's just good teaching, and Boegeman is a good teacher. His students will become adults with the ability to form well-thought-out opinions on hard issues.
Thank you, Mr. Boegeman, for your excellent teaching on a difficult topic.
Barbara Betz, St. Louis Park
Boegeman wants us to believe that "to teach critical race theory is simply to teach history and the role that race has played in shaping how individuals and groups have experienced this country ... ." He says that "while opponents of critical race theory often label it as inherently ideological ... acknowledging racial disparities is not an ideological act ... ." He also says that there are two explanations for the disparities: that "there is something wrong with Black people," or that they are "a result of ... societal forces that produced [them]."
If critical race theory were simply about the factual disparities that exist today, teaching it in schools would not be an issue. But critical race theory is not simply about acknowledging disparities. It is a theory about how those disparities came to be. The theory is that white supremacy and systemic racism are the main causes of the racial disparities. There is little doubt that those things contributed to the disparities but it is unproven to what extent those two things have led to the disparities. Critical race theory seems to emphasize those causes to the exclusion of all others.
Another claim that Boegeman makes is that the United States is a country that is "literally founded on the idea of white supremacy." That is false. Our country was founded on two main ideas — freedom of enterprise and freedom of religion. The foundation of the country was freedom, not slavery. Slavery is an ugly scar on the nation's history, but it is not the whole history, as some proponents of critical race theory would have us believe. It is important to acknowledge historical injustices, but equally important to put them in the context of the whole picture, both good and bad.
James Brandt, New Brighton
Bravo to Boegeman for his concise, calm and intelligent synopsis of how critical race theory is utilized in the classroom. I have been trying to study this issue and figure out why it has become contentious. As a very old person who has been active in anti-racist activities going back more than half a century, and who was a "red diaper baby," the more I read about this, the less I understand the outrage against it. CRT means teaching the true and complete history of racism in the U.S. and how it still functions in all aspects of the society. It is not a threat to or an indictment of pink-skinned persons, not divisive and not explosive — that is, unless hysteria against it makes it so. I would think that Boegeman's smart and accessible essay can help reassure even the most nervous and fragile pink-skinned person. Again, many thanks to Boegeman, and keep up the good work educating our children.
Penelope Mace, Minnetonka
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