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Teach the Whole Truth

Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

Many Republican politicians, along with a number of extreme right-wing organizations, are waging persistent attacks on public school teachers, administrators, and school board members for daring to teach the truth about racial injustice in America.

These politicians and organizations are objecting to teaching students about such historical realities as the Trail of Tears, in which thousands of Cherokees died when the federal government ordered them to be removed from their native lands in the East and forcibly relocated to reservations west of the Mississippi. They are also objecting to teaching students about the ways in which our federal government, and many state governments, sanctioned a variety of injustices against African-Americans, including the institution of slavery, discriminatory Jim Crow laws, forced racial segregation, redlining, and other forms of racial discrimination and persecution.

Teachers need to teach all aspects of our nation’s history – the just and the unjust, the admirable and the deplorable. Students need to learn the whole truth, not an incomplete and therefore inaccurate version of the truth. If they are taught a one-sided picture, in which only admirable behavior is examined, they are not receiving the education they deserve. Learning about past injustices is essential in order to undo current injustices and prevent future ones. By learning the whole truth about our nation, students will be prepared to create a more just and positive future.

The politicians and organizations that are attacking public schools are doing so under the false and misleading banner of “parents’ rights”. Parents certainly have the right to express their views about what they believe should and should not be taught to their child or children. However, parents’ views are not all the same. What one parent urgently wants excluded in their child’s education, another parent may just as urgently want included. Teachers and administrators need to listen carefully and respectfully to the views of all parents and take them into account as they organize their curriculum and make their teaching plans.

At the same time, parents need to listen carefully and respectfully to the views of teachers and administrators, who are professional educators whose training and experience provide them with specific knowledge and skills about what to teach and how to teach. They are the experts on education – their knowledge and skills should be recognized and respected.

Ideally, parents and teachers will form a collaborative partnership that focuses on the educational well-being of all students.

Larry Feldman



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