Should NC social studies courses address systemic racism? One board member says it will stir 'anti-American' ideas

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Thursday, January 28, 2021
Should systemic racism should be addressed in class? NCBOE members disagree
Supporters of the changes say children need more well-round lessons that include various experiences.

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- There is a battle at the North Carolina Board of Education and it's a war over words. The fight is political and boils down to verbiage that would be used in social studies standards.

There are three terms being hotly debated:

  • Systemic Racism
  • Systemic Discrimination
  • Gender Identity

The use of those terms was proposed at a recent meeting and some are pushing back.

Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson, a Conservative Republican who made history as the first Black man to hold the office, is taking a strong position especially on one topic.

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"To call our system of government racist, that is an untruth as far as I'm concerned. I truly believe that is an untruth as far as history is concerned and it does a disservice to our students. It puts the idea in the mind of our children that they live in a nation that has promoted racism," said Robinson.

He says we should be teaching our history and the horrible things that have taken place, but from a perspective of victory.

"These standards lead to the wrong direction. They lead to an anti-American sentiment," said Robinson. "If we want to teach children to embrace a system, tell them to embrace a system that ended slavery, that ended Jim Crow, that gave women the right to vote."

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Supporters of the changes say children need more well-round lessons that include various experiences.

"The more specificity the better, particularly as we're talking about social studies and history," said NCBOE member James Ford.

He was appointed by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and is the current Executive Director of the Center for Racial Equity in Education.

Ford says students are inquiring about the issues.

"Children are already interrogating this," he said. "They've not been given the tools or the language from educators to learn how to process that. That's part of what education is. It's not just to offer some decontextualized content to kids. It's to put it in the proper content."

He takes real issue with Robinson's position.

"The presence of racism is not debatable. It's embedded in the constitution, Article 1, Section 2, where African-Americans are considered to be insufficient human beings," said Ford. "The legacy goes on and continues systemically from there to the present, so for me that's not a matter of debate. In the interest of representing multiple perspectives, I think that those things are fair to think about critically."

The full board will be meeting again and taking up the debate next Thursday.