In the editorial “The Meaning of Education” which appeared in the Sun’s July 6th edition, it’s frustrating to see the familiar, glowing descriptions of the founding fathers and a romanticized view of literacy and education in 18th Century America. I understand the urgency of addressing systemic problems in our education view, and agree that core goals have shifted tremendously. Furthermore, general lack of reading and critical thinking have been implicated as strongly contributing factors in our current political climate.
However, for proper historical context, it must be acknowledged loud and clear that the founders of this country–two thirds of whom were slaveholders–did not intend education, pursuit of reading, knowledge, critical thinking, philosophical and artistic thought to be extended to Black and Native Americans.
Racist concepts at the core of our country’s founding succeeded in keeping educational content and services for people of color and poor people at a substandard level for the next 400 years, right up to the present day.
Compounded by socio-economic, generational and systematic injustice, our skin color and zip codes still determine how much access children have to a robust pursuit of knowledge and the potential to utilize it for the successful and meaningful lives that America promises.
If we are going to truly encourage critical thinking, we must stop whitewashing history and ignoring the marginalization and destruction of communities of color, which reinforces damaging and inaccurate revisionism as the American norm. Unflinching acknowledgement and honest discussion of this basic reality is a prerequisite to ameliorating any of the social and educational problems plaguing our nation.