This piece is part of “Dear Adult Leaders: #ListenToYouth,” a four-week series produced in collaboration with The 74 to elevate student voices in the national conversation as schools and districts navigate how to educate our country’s youth in a global pandemic. In this series, students write open letters to adult leaders and policymakers about their experiences and how, from their perspectives, the American education system should adapt. Read all the pieces in this series as they are published here. Read the The 74's other coverage of issues affecting young people here. This week’s letters focus on the issue of race and racism in schools.
Dear Andrea Cobb, president of the Tacoma Public Schools Board of Directors,
Over the last seven months, I have been participating in protests and watching many voices speak out against the injustice in our society on social media. Through this, I’ve encountered scores of people, each with disparate versions of American history. Those who teach us were also taught a very much biased version of our country’s history. This has gone on for too long, and we must incorporate an integral and unbiased knowledge of our country’s history with racism and injustice into the American curriculum.
It’s time to eliminate racist teachings from our textbooks and our classrooms. We can do this by re-evaluating our current curriculum, identifying what could be biased — whether by elimination, point of view or otherwise, and devising honest and truthful lessons about injustice and racism, no matter how difficult those conversations may be. We must face the hard truths about our past to be able to better shape our future.
Our accurate knowledge of the past helps shape our decisions for the future — including how we exercise our democratic rights and how we vote. Knowledge is power, and knowing the truth about our history, we can unite and work to heal and improve from our past.
I recently learned the importance of race in our education from my own family. When we watched the movie Black Panther, my parents didn’t believe that Lupita Nyong’o is Mexican — despite her being Mexican-born to Kenyan parents — based on the color of her skin. “A Black woman could not be truly Mexican,” they said. There are adults, like my parents, in our country with these biased beliefs as a result of the very limited education they were given. These are the same people who vote for our leaders and shape the future of our country
I have been working to reevaluate the curriculum at my school by working in a collaborative group between students and staff called the Equity Team. I’ve been talking specifically to English teachers to see how we can shift the curriculum so that it incorporates honest lessons about our country’s history.
As president of the school board, you set the vision for the future of the school district and define the goals to get there. Including our country’s history with racism into our curriculum should be a core part of this vision. Facing those hard truths molds the people we become and will positively reform the future of our country straight from the roots.
Jazmin R. Moran, 17
Tacoma School of the Arts