All posts by Erika de Witt

To Kneel or Not to Kneel, That is the Question

Composite image - Kneeling football player with American flag background

My Digital Toolbox for this class is focused on Second Grade and specifically the American Symbols.  

VDOE SOL Civics Unit: 

2.13 The student will understand the symbols and traditional practices that honor and foster patriotism in the United States of America by

  1. a) explaining the meaning behind symbols such as the American flag, bald eagle, Washington Monument, and Statue of Liberty; and
  2. b) learning the words and meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance

Prior to last week’s homework assignment, I had not fully considered how controversial certain symbols like the Statue of Liberty could be.  As a child, I was taught to respect the various symbols of the United States including the Statue of Liberty, Pledge of Allegiance, American Flag and the National Anthem.  In 2016, I was shocked to see sports figure, Colin Kaepernick,  kneel in protest at the beginning of a football game as the National Anthem played. To me, the Anthem was always a beautiful symbol of hope, courage, freedom, liberty, and community. I never stopped to consider that may not be the case for all. 

How should we as educators address this potentially controversial issue in the classroom? Are we able to separate our personal feelings and opinions and simply teach the content standards, or should we attempt to inform, enlighten and educate our young learners that not everyone is treated the same in our country and why that might be?  Should we go the next step and try to explain the controversy? 

I found the following brief article relevant and informative. The article provides context and discusses both the Pros and Cons of kneeling. I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic and how it pertains to social studies education for our children. 

Also, take a look at this longer article providing a bit more background.

Book Banning? Really!?! What Year Are We Living In?

It’s 2022 and yet, if you do a quick internet search for book banning, hundreds of articles, interviews, and news stories pop up and they are not just from the past but rather are prominently featured in today’s headlines. Book banning (and book burning sadly), remain current issues.  While banning books has been a practice for years (dating back to at least the 15th century), current events have brought it back to the foreground for significant educational and parental discussion. What books are being banned and why? Who decides?

Book Banning has certainly spanned our country’s history, yielding numerous debates about controversial topics such as religion, politics, gender identification, and race; however, the real debate is over who decides what is and isn’t “appropriate”.

To Kill A Mockingbird, The Hate U Give, Maus, The Bluest Eye, and the entire Harry Potter Series are just a few examples of books that have been banned or are on a “watch list” due to “inappropriate” content. But the bigger question is, who deems book content appropriate? Is it parents? School teachers? School Administrators? School Boards? Librarians? Publishers? Politicians? Who ultimately should decide what is taught in schools? Is there a different standard for public libraries? What about the number of parents who complain about a particular book? What if only one parent is bothered by content in a particular book that is being taught in a public school classroom? Should that teacher be required to change their curriculum to appease one parent? What if more than one parent objects? What about the Mississippi assistant principal who was recently fired for reading a book to a group of second graders that was deemed “inappropriate” by school administrators who merely feared parents would complain? The assistant principal defended the book as just “a funny, silly book that can help teach kids reading can be fun”. How are educators expected to walk the line of appropriate and inappropriate when it’s extremely subjective and based on opinion? The answer seems to be: with extreme caution. 

Consider the following articles and news video attached below.

The History (and Present) of Banning Books in America ‹ Literary Hub

To Ban or Not To Ban? Virginia’s Schools Caught in a Battlefield – Dogwood.

 Austin Public Library condemns book banning in Texas

When you were in school, were you required to read any of the books that are now banned? Did you think about any controversial issues as you were reading them? Did any of the content give you pause, where you thought to yourself, hmmm, maybe this isn’t appropriate for me to be reading? As educators, are there any books you’ve recently come across that you now think you’d shy away from in terms of teaching? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Are we all biased?

Talking About Race: Bias

“If you are human, you are biased.” Howard J. Ross

Who writes the textbooks?  Who edits the trade books? Who are the “fact checkers” for educational materials that teachers use to teach history?  How do we know who we can trust for accurate information? What role do teachers play in educating students on understanding the importance of considering the source of their information? Ultimately, what role does bias play in history education?

As discussed in class and in the assigned homework, teachers are charged with the task of  not only teaching history, but more importantly creating critical thinkers. History is not merely a stagnant time-line or document for students to memorize. Instead,  history is a dynamic, living reflection of research, interpretation, and human experience, all of which are influenced by bias. In the classroom, students should be tasked with fact checking and considering the source of their information.  What bias might exist? From what perspective is the information derived? How does bias affect perspective?

Take a look below at the article, “BIAS” from The National Museum of African American History and Culture in connection with the Smithsonian Institute and think about how bias affects each and every one of us.  More importantly, think about how we, as educators, need to recognize our own biases and overcome them to become the positive influence we all strive to be in our students’ lives.

https://nmaahc.si.edu/learn/talking-about-race/topics/bias

In the TEDx Talk below, Jerry Kang explains what the Harvard University Project Implicit Study reveals about human nature and society.