George Washington Carver said, “Education is the key that unlocks the golden door to freedom.”
Currently, we risk losing that key, and with it, a free and equitable nation. House Bills 322 and 327 threaten this and future generations of thoughtful, engaged, empathetic citizens of our local, national and global community.
In banning the teaching of systemic racism and other “divisive topics” that have been a foundation of our nation since 1619 and continue to impact generations of people of color, these bills will narrow our children’s minds. They will teach history through a keyhole, forgoing the factual telling of our nation’s history to purposely leave out events, details, people and voices that would paint a broader, more authentic story of our country. In alignment with our commitment to equity and excellence in our work, we are wary of rhetoric that aims to shift the narrative from telling the complete story of who we are as a nation – past and present.
High quality education promotes critical thinking. A functioning democracy relies on the public possessing such skills. Telling students what to think and what is true, as these bills do, is true indoctrination. Presenting students with all perspectives, teaching them to search for credible sources and encouraging them to make solid claims backed by evidence is educating for a functioning democracy. Students must have all the evidence, not a sheltered version of reality believed by some Americans. The heart of education is on the line – teaching students how to think, not what to think.
Education must be more than the blind memorization and recitation of prescribed facts. It must be exploratory, challenging, enlightening. It must reveal a broader picture of who we were and who we can be and must not be twisted to confirm a skewed view of events.
These bills have been defended by saying children should not be held responsible for the sins of their fathers. These bills promote a worldview that excuses and justifies racist, discriminatory beliefs that we as a nation have long suffered and struggled to prove are morally and legally wrong.
We must address and learn from the mistakes of our fathers, so another generation does not repeat them at the same or greater cost.
This is not only about acknowledging those dark periods in our past. It’s about celebrating the diversity of voices who have built and shaped this nation into what it is and who have inspired people about what it can be.
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center urges our leaders to allow our true history to be taught in schools. Let us learn from our past mistakes and be inspired by the stories of accomplishment and hope so that every student can find in the past a story, a role model or a lesson that will build a brighter future for us all.
Nelson Mandela believed “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Let us arm our children with education, not indoctrination.
Woodrow Keown, Jr.
President & COO
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
About the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center opened in August 2004 on the banks of the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Since then, more than 1.3 million people have visited its permanent and changing exhibits and public programs, inspiring everyone to take courageous steps for freedom. Two million people have utilized educational resources online at freedomcenter.org, working to connect the lessons of the Underground Railroad to inform and inspire today’s global and local fight for freedom. Partnerships include Historians Against Slavery, Polaris Project, Free the Slaves, US Department of State and International Justice Mission. In 2014, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center launched a new online resource in the fight against modern slavery, endslaverynow.org.