How can we shape a better future in our country if we do not teach children about our past?

Jun 23, 2021

What we teach our children today impacts the world we live in tomorrow. Yet, recently enacted state legislation aims to ban teachers from teaching about racism (as well as sexism, homophobia, and religious oppression), sparking an outcry across the country. As leaders of education companies, families have asked us what to do next, and they demanded we take action. We agree. It is not the time to be silent.

We have seen both an awakening about the importance of dismantling racism and a troubling rebellion against it. The current legislation focuses on critical race theory (CRT), but it uses this framework to do something much more insidious - erase the true history of our country. While we recognize that CRT is not even being taught in K-12 schools, it is important first to understand what it is and isn’t. Critical race theory can be boiled down to an acknowledgment of institutional racism in the United States. It does not teach people to hate America or that children should feel like they come from oppressors. It is not intended to create divisions or shame people. Instead, it exists to help us understand the role racism plays in policies so we can work to eliminate systemic and structural inequities.

The internet enables misinformation to spread quickly, and our tendency to listen to people who think like us only exacerbates this echo chamber cycle. We are not surprised to see myths spread, and we know how hard they are to dispel. But we are dismayed that state and local legislatures perpetuate these myths and seek to ban the teachings of critical race theory, or about racism in general, in our schools. As a nation, we must take a stand that teaching the wrongs of racism is not divisive; it is imperative.

Many of these new laws will require teaching “both sides” of a lesson about race or current events, if permitted at all. For example, a social studies teacher who wishes to give a lesson about Emmett Till would now have to present a balanced argument as part of their lesson plan, rather than unequivocally coming out against the brutal murder of an innocent child at the hands of vile racists. A lesson that included Jim Crow’s legacy would now need to be nuanced in such a way that it would be difficult to condemn lynching at voting stations a century ago. Is this what we want our children to learn?

The likely outcome of this legislation is that teachers will, in large part, elect not to teach about these events for fear of running afoul of broad and ambiguous new laws. These new regulations are simply a red herring to outlaw the teaching of anything deemed “anti-racist.” We cannot let them silence our teachers. Students need to know about the wrongs of our past, consequences in our present, and dangers for our future.

We often hear that without education, history repeats itself, but we are not only worried about our future; we are concerned about today. The murderer of Ahmaud Arbery, for example, was deputized by local law enforcement. It is not only a question of if history will repeat itself; without proper education, we cannot stop what is happening now. It is not only the erasure of the history of race and violence that concerns us; it is the inability to discuss the violence still occurring today. Those of us in the field of education can’t stand idly by and watch this happen in our schools. These laws will have profound and far-reaching consequences. We must empower teachers to teach that some things are just wrong.

As CEOs and Board Members of education technology companies, we are taking a stand to say that any new law that restricts teaching racism in a lesson is unacceptable.

  • We stand with the thousands of teachers who have come together to protest these laws restricting racism lessons.
  • We stand with the millions of learners they will impact.
  • We are signing this letter today so that teachers and students can openly discuss the experiences of Black youth today in the context of the George Floyd protests of 2020.
  • Above all, we are signing this letter today to say racism is wrong and that hatred based on the color of someone’s skin, religious beliefs, gender, or sexual orientation is wrong, unequivocally wrong.

Please help us educate others that critical race theory is not about divisiveness and is not what is being taught in our schools. Enlist the help of others to set the record straight, calm the misinformation and fervor on social channels, and support your local schools and districts fighting an organized campaign of harassment. Our educators are trying to do right by our children when teaching subjects that involve diversity. We stand with them and against the voices spreading hate. We cannot let those voices prevail.

Signed:

Atin Batra, General Partner, 27V (Twenty Seven Ventures)

Michael Ke Zhang, CEO and Co-Founder of AI Camp

Joanna Smith, CEO and Founder of AllHere

Ilana Nankin, Ph.D. Founder & CEO of Breathe For Change

John Danner, Managing Partner, Dunce Capital

Erika Hairston, CEO and Co-Founder of Edlyft

Michael Haddix, Founder, Elevate

Alex Taussig, Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners

Brian Swartz - CEO & Co-Founder Neighbor Schools

Bridget Garsh - COO & Co-Founder Neighbor Schools

Cedric McDougal - CTO & Co-Founder Neighbor Schools

Amir Nathoo, CEO and Co-Founder of Outschool

Rita Rosa Ruesga, Co-Founder Pikitin Learning Projects

Garrett Smiley, CEO and Co-Founder of Sora Schools

Rethink Education III Team

Rebecca Kaden, Managing Partner, Union Square Ventures

Sara Mauskopf, CEO and Co-Founder of Winnie

Jo Boaler, The Nominelli-Olivier Professor of Education, Stanford University

Co-Founder of youcubed

The Team at Transcend

Team at Fiveable

Jamie Poskin, CEO and Founder TeachFX

To sign our statement please contact amy@outschool.com.

Amir Nathoo

Amir is co-founder and CEO of Outschool. He previously worked at Square leading the Square Payroll product and founded Trigger.io before that. He holds an MEng from Cambridge University.

Outschool