Editorial: Hard truths we must learn

A recent editorial by the Sandusky Register:

The phrase “critical race theory” describes a college level course that chronicles the nation’s history in relationship to the institution of slavery. It is not being taught in our public K-12 schools primarily because it is not coursework designed for students in that age bracket.

Path to Freedom sculpture commemorates the city’s role as a the final stop along the Underground Railroad. It’s located at Facer Park near the shoreline in downtown Sandusky. Erie County Historical Society

But be prepared. As we enter into the new year, a “midterm” year, get ready for a firestorm surrounding those words and the concept of teaching American history, including the parts that aren’t cozy and comfortable.

That is as it should be. American history studies must include both our successes as a nation and our failures. The institution of slavery is one of those failures. The failure of Reconstruction after the Civil War and Jim Crow are also. The emergence of the KKK in the early part of the 20th century, the lynchings and voter suppression all are failures that should be taught and studied not suppressed or ignored.

But that will be the goal for some, to ignore the past and sugarcoat it.

The arguments about how our history should be taught — and what should and should not be included in the curriculum — will not be a discussion designed to bring people together toward a better understanding of ourselves and our past. No, instead, “critical race theory” will be the catchphrase, the centerpiece of heated rhetoric. It will be used to divide and conquer, to generate unnecessary outrage and damaging division.

We must work, however, to make it a discussion of what’s best for the common good. If we fail to do that, it will become a hot-button topic for school boards and a campaign issue in statehouse and congressional races. Truth will be sacrificed in exchange for votes that are earned, not by leadership but instead through the anger and animosity this fake intellectual discussion will create.

Don’t fall for it.

Teaching history should not be allowed to become a political football used to distort history. It’s obvious that teaching about slavery, about the nation’s difficult past in detail, should be the goal of educators who develop the curriculum, not craven politicians who seek power by any means.

It should include lessons about Juneteenth, about the Tulsa Race Massacre, about the history of voter suppression and the Civil Rights Act, and in Sandusky and Erie County schools, it should include lessons about the city’s role as an important stop along the Underground Railroad and its early abolitionist leaders. For high school students, lessons should include teaching about William Taylor — a Black man accused of murdering a white woman — who was lynched in downtown Sandusky on Sept. 4, 1878.

Those are the truths, some more difficult, that we must learn and remember if we are to become a better people and a better nation.

— Sandusky Register, Dec. 29, 2021