The New Hampshire legislature has passed legislation that includes new curriculum bans applicable to K-12 educational programs. Although an effort has been made by the authors / supporters of the law (HB2) to appear non-discriminatory, educators are not fooled by these efforts.

In essence, public schools, state agencies, and state contractors are now effectively prohibited from providing education that defines racism, sexism, or ableism as systemic issues that remain endemic in our society. For more details, read this document online: “Frequently Asked Questions: New Prohibitions on Discriminatory Practices Applicable to Kindergarten to 12-Year-Old Educational Programs.” This explanation is offered by the NH Education Department, the Human Rights Commission and the Justice Department! The new law smacks of censorship and threatens the Constitution’s protections for free speech.

The educational themes and goals of Combating Racism by Examining Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice (DEIJ) require training and professional development. They get much needed support in public schools and colleges. This process, however, includes the recognition of systemic bias and discrimination, which frightens many, including some New Hampshire lawmakers. A lawmaker, however, Representative Manny Espitia from Nashua, has just filed for legislation to repeal the state’s “concepts of division” law.

When reviewing educational bans, find out how some communities react to such decisions by checking out Forbidden Book Week (September 26-October 3). By Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds; “Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story of Racial Injustice” by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins and Ann Hazzard; “The Bluest Eye” by Nobel author Toni Morrison and “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas who spoke in Exeter in 2017.

Complaints about these books include the denial that racial groups in our country are unequal, that reported police brutality promotes anti-police views, that racism against everyone is not the focus of attention, that division subjects are too sensitive for students.

There are other books in the top 10, but what these four have in common is the topic of race relations. It’s hard to accept systemic racism! It makes us uncomfortable, sometimes guilty. Every day when I pick up my diary I learn something new – often wonderful, sometimes horrible – about a person of color who five or six years ago would have been ignored by journalists, unknown to our society. And on television and in the library books I read, I regularly encounter historical facts that were never part of my school or university studies! Why were they missing?

I shudder sometimes when I read these lives, just as I feel uncomfortable about certain facts and episodes from the forbidden books cited above. They are part of the world I live in. To live responsibly, I need to know them. Our students too! Our legislators too.

Putting limits – then watchdogs – on what can be taught in our schools, places limits on our ability to increase understanding and reduce prejudice in our communities, to confront systemic practices. These goals form the framework for informed school curriculum and policies, which seek to address the power of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice to build a better America. Rather than banning books and passing laws that prohibit exploring the ugliness as well as the beauty of our human history, we need to support our teachers, diversity directors, and school administrators who prepare our children to face a challenge. changing world of many races – everywhere we go! We must elect lawmakers and governors with an open mind!

Patricia Yosha from Exeter is a member of the Racial Unity team.


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