As a historian and writer, the latest discourse over education and schooling has been frustrating to watch. Education is so critical to the country we’ve built, and in order to retain and improve upon our republic, we need to be honest about the foundation upon which we rest.
I feel it’s clear that those who have complained about Critical Race Theory (CRT) in schools have missed some vital lessons in the course of their own education. Ignoring that CRT isn’t taught on the elementary or high school level, it’s a thinly veiled shot at teaching history honestly.
The grand experiment that is America is the result of our past: our collective decisions and actions alike. That history is full of triumphant moments that continue to inspire us, but moments of great failure, and it’s vital we understand the nuances of that story.
I’ve always felt that, in order to solve a problem, you have to first recognize the problem. America’s legacy is intertwined with that of the original sin of slavery, the destruction of Indigenous tribes, and the exploitation of Asian railroad workers. These aren’t partisan points: Historians have long documented these moments in American history by examining letters, conducting oral histories, and examining the evidence left behind by those who came before us.
History isn’t the unchanging thing we learned while in high school — it’s an ever-evolving picture of the past, and as we listen to more voices from the marginalized, the unprivileged and the ones who were most affected by the founding and expansion of the country, we get a better understanding of who we are as a nation.
CRT is one academic toolset, and a convenient culture war scapegoat to try and sanitize our history to downplay the role of slavery and racism in our nation’s founding and evolution. Arguments that better understanding our past are harmful to the fabric of our nation, are dishonest and wrong.
There are moments where we’d want to avert our gaze, to try and forget those stains that blemish our record. Understanding those failures is critical to making sure we don’t make the same mistakes in the future, and the better we understand ourselves and our collective identity, the better the foundation we build for the generations that follow.
Andrew Liptak lives in Barre City.