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How banning Critical Race Theory in District 49 could impact classrooms

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Posted at 5:56 PM, Aug 11, 2021

COLORADO SPRINGS — As Falcon School District 49 prepares to vote on banning Critical Race Theory also known as CRT, the debate on whether it should be taught in K-12 public schools continues.

"Some things should be taught, absolutely. We can't gloss over our racial history, that is important. When I was in school, they really hit hard on Jim Crow laws and the lack of opportunity just because we signed and said every human is of worth and value and can pursue the American Dream, but it doesn't mean it happened," said Tawnye Kanumuri, former teacher and parent.

She believes the concept of race should be taught in the classroom, but how it is taught is critical.

"One of my concerns with Critical Race Theory is that it did start at the college level. To filter down, we don't really know what that looks like yet. We don't have a curriculum or objectives so when you ask if it to should be taught in classrooms. Well, it depends on how it's being taught. If we don't have a clear objective than we've lost transparency so we've lost a whole conversation about how parents feel and how do teachers feel teaching this," said Kanumuri.

Rather than banning CRT, Kanumuri would like to see the community reach common ground on the issue.

"A resolution about what we teach. I would like to go back to history and say we absolutely have to talk about Jim Crowe laws and slavery. We absolutely have to talk about when we get to an older level, that everyone's homes, background, and culture are different. We have to teach children how to walk across the aisle whether it's political or racial," said Kanumuri.

District 49's resolution to ban CRT would prohibit schools to utilize critical race theory or antiracism curriculum for student education or any staff training.

"Teachers are not teaching CRT. Are they talking about race? Yes absolutely and they are doing it in a context that is age-appropriate and subject appropriate," said Anton Schulzki, District 11 Social Studies teacher and President of the National Council for Social Studies.

Schulzki says limiting teachers in the classroom can do more harm than good.

"They may shy away from some of these conversations with their students which isn't a good thing. We want these types of discussions, we have to look at our past and we must do so in a way that educates our students. Most social studies teachers will also rely on a series of sources to give students the opportunity to read, have conversations with these sources, and draw their own conclusions," said Schulzki.

As a social studies teacher, he says those conversations can help students have a better understanding of what they learn.

"We can no longer rely on the history books that we relied on in 1976 because oftentimes there was a single orthodoxy. What's happened in the last thirty years or so is that more sources have become available, more opportunities for students to find out more have become available. It's important that teachers learn how to vet and use the correct sources. That being said by limiting what students can discuss, you're just limiting their education," said Schulzki. "We always encourage students to do research on their own, but what we are also talking about is how do you know a good source, how would identify a good source, what are some questions you would have of that source."

"There is a place for discussion, I just don't want it to be force-fed this is what you believe in this. Once we get into that, we've alienated a lot of people," said Kanumuri.

UPDATE: Falcon School District 49 became the first district in the state to ban Critical Race Theory. The resolution passed on a 3-2 vote Thursday night.