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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Teaching about racism: Americans are divided

Americans agree that schools should teach about historic racism and slavery, but divided on present-day racism, writes Matt Barnum on Chalkbeat. He analyzed 20 polls.

Should racism be taught as history or current events? Americans disagree.

People also disagree about whether “schools pay too much or too little attention to race and racism,” he writes.

However, “the vast majority of parents also said their child’s school does at least a decent job keeping them abreast of curriculum on controversial topics, according to multiple polls.”

“Critical race theory” doesn’t poll all that well (although many people say they’re not sure what it means). At the same time, discussing the present-day effects of racism does draw meaningful, although not overwhelming, support. . . . Another poll found that 53% of voters believe it’s appropriate to teach high school students that “systemic racism is embedded in American institutions,” while 46% say it’s not appropriate.

A recent Associated Press poll asked: “Do you think your local public school system is focusing too much or too little on racism in the U.S., or is the focus about right?”

While “37% of Americans said about right, 34% said there was too little focus, and 27% said there was too much,” writes Barnum.

Many “equity” initiatives, such as abolishing tracking and grouping students by race for discussions are unpopular, Barnum writes. “Most Americans of all races also favored using standardized test scores as a part of college admissions, despite recent pushback that these tests discriminate against Black and Hispanic students. And most also opposed race-based preferences in college admissions.”

Most parents say students should be encouraged to “read books by authors from a variety of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.”

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