The Critical Racial Theory Debate Is Damaging Students In A Way You May Not Have Considered

The fabricated struggle to keep critical race theory out of our Tennessee public schools has opened the door to a real threat: a toxic environment that undermines teachers and threatens the very stability of our school systems.

Need proof? The heated debates over critical race theory at school board meetings were the very issue that prompted Republicans in the General Assembly to craft state law to allow partisan school board elections statewide. .

And they succeeded; next week, candidates can pick up papers at party headquarters in Davidson County to run for school board as a Democrat or Republican. This debate has never been about improving student outcomes; rather, it was designed to create damaging litmus tests to score points against political opposition.

Point: The critical repression of racial theory is not an annulment of culture; this is the policy of annihilation | Opinion

Counterpoint: Marsha Blackburn: Why We Must Keep Critical Race Theory From Entering American Classrooms | Opinion

One sixth of teachers are eligible for retirement and may choose to leave

Injecting political party affiliation into the governance of our school districts may serve the political interests of the right on the eve of an election year, but it also loosens the bonds of trust between teachers and the families that make up the school. fabric of our school communities.

Republican lawmakers and governors in more than a dozen states have championed legislation to limit the teaching of material exploring how race and racism influence American politics, culture, and law.

Put aside for a moment the fact that the vast majority of Americans are in fact in favor of teachers being able to facilitate honest conversations with students about our country’s full history of race and racism. The result of the CRT debate is that teachers now see their professionalism, skills and motivations in question. In some cases, teachers have even been dismissed simply for bringing up the subject of racism in the classroom.

The most recent data from the US Department of Education shows that one in six teachers is over 55 and eligible for retirement at any time. It’s no secret the past two years have been incredibly difficult for educators and many have already chosen to leave amid the challenges of the pandemic.

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The teachers pay attention. If we continue to allow schools to be used to instill fear and garner votes, we could see a huge loss of our most seasoned educators, with a decrease in the number of incoming teachers in our educator preparation programs. to replace them.

Tennessee’s law that penalizes districts and schools for teaching “prohibited concepts”, along with their unclear rules of application, has left teachers unsettled and worried about how to proceed.

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CRT policy harms the mental health of educators and students

While US Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy recently warned of a looming mental health crisis in school-aged children, teachers themselves are asking for additional mental health resources and, desperate not to lose them. , schools are listening.

Students will continue to ask tough questions about our history, placing teachers in a precarious position. Worried now about saying the wrong thing about race, many choose to say nothing, fearing retaliation against themselves or their schools. Our students deserve better.

Gini Pupo-Walker

Gini Pupo-Walker

Research shows that avoiding the topic of race in the classroom actually hurts students. Conversely, what I’m suggesting – that we recognize the efforts of our teachers and help them isolate them from the rhetoric that breeds fear and mistrust – turns out to be quite good for the students.

A recent Aspen Institute article United We Learn shows that students who learn about race as part of their public education have a higher GPA, better attendance, higher test scores, and are more likely to go to college.

We are entering uncharted territory with partisan school board races in Nashville, but it is well established that teachers matter more than anything else in student success. Rather than giving our teachers one more reason to leave, let’s give them the opportunity to show students the sanity, civility, and discernment that we should expect from each other.

Gini Pupo-Walker is a member of the District 8 School Board of Metro Nashville Public Schools.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Critical Race Theory: How Debate Hurts Students and Teachers

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