Originally Posted: August 13, 2021
One history textbook exclusively refers to immigrants as “aliens”. Another blames the Black Lives Matter movement for strife between communities and police officers. A third discusses the prevalence of “black supremacist” organizations during the civil rights movement, calling Malcolm X the most prominent “black supremacist” of the era.
Legislatures and boards of education around the US are currently engaging in acrimonious battles about how issues of race and equity are taught in public K-12 classrooms – the latest culture war in a decades-long fight around whose stories and contributions get highlighted in school. But largely left out of this conversation has been the education provided in private schools, thousands of which have quietly been excluding diverse voices and teaching biased versions of history for years.
While public school textbooks suffer from their own blindspots, a Guardian analysis has found that private schools, especially Christian schools, use textbooks that tell a version of history that is racially biased and often inaccurate. These textbooks, used in thousands of private schools, many of which receive tens of thousands of dollars in public funding every year, whitewash the legacy of slavery, frame Native Americans as lesser and blame the Black Lives Matter movement for sowing racial discord.
This Guardian analysis comes as backlash around anti-racist education in public schools has reached a fever pitch. About half of states have enacted or are looking to enact restrictions on discussions of systemic racism. In Florida, for example, the state board of education recently voted to ban the teaching of critical race theory and The 1619 Project, a curriculum born out of a New York Times Magazine initiative that seeks to reframe American history through the historical legacy of slavery. In Iowa, the governor has signed a bill broadly banning the discussion of “divisive concepts” in public school, including racism and sexism.
The term “critical race theory”, an academic discipline that examines the ways in which racism operates in US laws and society, has also become a catchall bogeyman term for wokeness run amok, even though experts say they believe the theory is actually used in relatively few classrooms around the country. Conservative critics say that in practice, the theory is designed to make white students feel guilty for the sins of others, a drastic distortion of the academic concept.
Often hidden from public view, though, is how private schools teach these issues. Private schools, unlike public ones, receive little oversight or restrictions when it comes to curriculum. In truth, thousands of private schools are currently teaching history through a racially biased lens. READ MORE