As my toddler grows older, I’ve been thinking more about his education.
When I read a letter titled “Public schools no longer safe” in the paper on March 5, I was shocked about what the grandmother found so terrifying. While it is true our children should learn basic academic skills, the socialization and life skills they need to succeed as adults can be taught through the very lessons the author found troublesome.
I want my son to learn about climate change. It is true the adult world is scary, but I don’t want him to decide the proper reaction is hiding under a rock and pretending scary things don’t exist. He should understand the state of our planet and to learn the importance of recycling, sustainability and nature preservation. I trust our teachers to approach the topic in an age-appropriate way.
I’d like my son to learn about gender identity. While many children may not struggle, it is crucial for those students who do to be understood and accepted. According to a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health, 12- to 14-year-olds who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender are much more likely to die by suicide than their heterosexual peers. If we want those students to be safe, we need them to know they are accepted and loved.
Strong sex education is critical for our young people to become successful adults. It’s kind of a “icky” topic and I’m not exactly looking forward to it myself. But studies show that abstinence-only education and a lack of sex education lead to an increase in teen pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections and more. Protecting my child means making sure he’s informed.
Most importantly, equity and culture programs will teach my white son there are people who look, sound and think differently than he does and that while those differences exist, they should always be respected. He deserves to learn that people of color have historically been disenfranchised, and equity teaches him how he can help lift other people up who have historically been held down — not to be ashamed of his whiteness.
Our curriculum does all our children a disservice when it solely teaches white history and narratives. I want his classmates of color to feel fully represented in the classroom. Not everyone my son encounters in the real world will be just like him, and he needs to know how to love and respect all people.
While the basic skills we often associate with education are important, what has shaped me into the adult I am today is the exposure to ideas that sometimes made me uncomfortable, but ultimately taught me a perspective I didn’t have before. I want that for my son. Eastern Carver County Schools appears to be doing this for its students through climate change awareness, gender and sex education, and its equity initiative. My hat’s off to them.