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Classroom controversies in teaching Black History

Across the country, Black History Month is renewing the potential for troubling controversies faced by many school districts and classroom educators.


Most notably in Florida, but also in a range of other states, Black history lessons are under scrutiny. In some cases, coursework about race and racism has been watered down. Eighteen states have passed so-called “anti-CRT” (Critical Race Theory) laws that impose restrictions on lessons said to make students feel “guilt or anguish” for past actions of their race.


Even in states and school districts where no such state or local restrictive standards exist, many educators privately express concern that the curriculum that they use may come under fire, which may even put their jobs at risk.


“The challenge is completely unfair, for educators to be put in a situation where the rules are undefined but the threats are very real,” said Lambers Fisher, licensed marriage and family therapist, DEI trainer and author and host of The Diversity Dude podcast on the platform.


“It’s hard for them to educate and do what they are tasked to do while navigating those political challenges. When laws say, we don’t want you to distort the facts, distort history, then you get into a debate, whose history, what part of history?”


Fisher regularly works with educators and school districts to provide multicultural awareness training.


He stresses the importance of careful preparation for teachers. He gives them strategies for teaching history in a way that does not dilute Black History but still avoids what he calls ‘land mines.’


“Those land mines are focused on, we don’t want kids to feel uncomfortable. Some people say, If my kids have to be uncomfortable with the realities of that history, then your kids should have to be uncomfortable listening to it,” he said.

“We’re not trying to make anyone uncomfortable today. That’s not the goal. The goal is to acknowledge what happened so we can make a present and a future that doesn’t repeat those injustices and discomforts over and over again.”


In his work with educators and in workplace DEI training and lunch-and-learns, Fisher keeps his focus on using the injustices of the past to resolve to strive for more equity moving forward.


“We can acknowledge that, yes, (atrocities) happened. A lot ended and a lot of things from the past still have impact today. The goal is for us to look at those things and try to make today better. We can be clear we are not trying to make anyone feel judged now for what happened before,” he said.


“But we also have an opportunity to be accountable—not responsible, but accountable—for what we do today to reduce the likelihood of those things happening again in the future.”


Fisher wants to make sure that the accomplishments of historical Black figures and appreciation of the rich cultural heritage of African Americans is embedded in the curriculum in contemporary classrooms.


“History is beyond just the bad things that happened,” he said. “When we acknowledge that we celebrate Black history and the uniqueness of the culture in ways that are safe for everyone and actually informative for everyone as well.”




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