On January 11, 2022, Michigan’s State Board of Education adopted a Resolution, to oppose Senate Bill 460 and House Bill 5097, two bills prohibiting so-called “critical race theory” in state curriculum standards. More than 650 parents and citizens spoke in opposition of the resolution during the board meeting, but the State Board of Education still voted (5-1) to pass the resolution. While the resolution is largely symbolic, Christian parents need to know the resolution’s alarming language:
“WHEREAS House Bill 5097 was introduced in June 2021 and, if passed and signed into law, would stipulate that “anything that could be understood as implicit race or gender stereotyping” could not be included in academic standards adopted by the State Board of Education or curricula adopted by school districts;”
This language supports academic standards based on stereotyping people according to race or gender. Rather than teaching children how to think, this resolution supports teaching children what to think about certain groups of people. Rather than teaching children to look past outward appearances and get to know others on the basis of their unique, individual identity, it protects teaching children to make judgments about people before they know them. Rather than valuing people based on “the content of their character” as Martin Luther King Jr. advocated for, this language supports academic standards that make assumptions about people based on the color of their skin or gender. Fundamentally, stereotypes such as these devalue what it means to be a human being, uniquely created in the image of God. (Genesis 1-2, Psalm 139, Ephesians 2:10, Colossians 3:10-11).
“WHEREAS institutional racism has been declared a public health crisis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Medical Association, 18 states including Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, and 128 U.S. cities;”
While discrimination, judgement, or disparate treatment of anyone on the basis of race is unquestionably wrong, declaring an attitude, thought, or idea “a public health crisis” is a slippery slope, often sliding toward deceitful, unjust wrongfulness. Government ought not police thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Morality is a spiritual issue and needs a spiritual remedy (Romans 2). Even for those who dismiss spiritual teaching, there is still value in viewing morality as something established apart from the government. After all, when the government defines standards of right and wrong and even dictates their practice, are they not establishing a religion of the state?
“WHEREAS racism has been embedded in our institutions since 1619 when the first ships carrying enslaved Africans arrived on America’s shores;”
This statement ignores the fact that in 1619, “our institutions” did not exist; that year English settlers first arrived in the English colony of Virginia. It ignores the fact that prior to this, European explorers visited the continent and took Native Americans as slaves. It ignores the fact that for hundreds, if not thousands of years before this, the native peoples of this land were trading each other in chattel slavery. It ignores the fact that people of all skin colors, including white, were sold around the world and in this land as slaves. Most of all, it ignores the success of our American nation in ending the practice of human slavery. In 1776, because of a host of injustices, English colonists declared independence and fought a long war to win the right to become self-governed Americans. In 1789, these Americans adopted our current Constitution, and in 1791, they adopted the Bill of Rights. These documents set up a system that while flawed, ultimately ended the slave trade and incentivized ending the practice of slaveholding altogether. (See e.g., Art. I, section 9 – ending slave trade after 1808; Art V, Amed. 13, 14, and 15 – providing for an amending process resulting in the prohibition of slavery; Civil Rights Act 1875; Civil Rights Act 1964; etc). To be sure, systems of law, government and civil society, prior to the civil war and subsequently during the era of Jim Crow laws, treated people unfairly due to the color of their skin… but always with moral opposition. The moral opposition prevailed and today our systems of law, government, and civil society all require equal protection for all under the law and prohibit discrimination based on race. To say that racism has been embedded in “our institutions” since 1619, and continues today, ignores historical fact and misrepresents the truth.
WHEREAS students should learn the full breadth of our country’s multifaceted and complex history including acts of our federal and state governments, which include chattel slavery of Africans and African Americans, forced relocation of Indigenous People, detainment of Japanese Americans in internment camps, and state and local statutes that legalized racial segregation (i.e., Jim Crow laws);
Students should learn “the full breadth of history,” but that history should be based on facts, not biased social or political agendas. Students should also learn “the full breadth of history,” including the stories of the abolitionists who fought to end slavery for people of all skin colors, the stories of missionaries who voluntarily walked the Trail of Tears with Indigenous Peoples, the stories of heroes who defended freedom in spite of injustice, and the stories of civil rights leaders of all demographics who dared to stand for justice. The very fact these are stories of our past history, and not stories of our present reality, is a testimony to the faithful dedication of many Americans who have worked for a “more perfect union” “with liberty and justice for all.”
WHEREAS teachers have the right and responsibility to teach that multifaceted and complex history, including the history of race, racism and other biases, which are inextricably connected to the constitutional and statutory history in our country;
It is imperative that students learn about the failures and wrongs of the past, in order to avoid repeating the same errors. However, it is also imperative that these conversations and learning opportunities be objectively based on fact, so that accurate causation and accurate solvency can also be studied. Students must learn more than a narrative of shame; they must learn the facts about how the biggest problems that faced our nation were overcome and how injustices came to an end.
Teachers do have a “right and responsibility” to teach the full breadth of their subject matter, but their authority to do so is delegated by the parents of the children they teach. Educators at every level need to remember that when it comes to teaching children, especially on moral issues, parents have the final authority and the greatest responsibility. Indeed, the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly held that government action (especially in the schools) is limited by the fundamental right of parents to direct and control the upbringing of their children.
Christian parents, it is time to embrace the mantle of stewardship with which the Lord has entrusted you. Know what your child is learning in school, in the books they read, and in the media they consume. Know their teachers. Know what standards under which the school board operates. Know the values of the education officials you elect. Above all else, be intentional about teaching them of the love, wisdom, and Word of God. As it says in Deuteronomy 11:19, “Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” The same God who entrusted these children to you will equip you to educate them.