About The Lt. Governor’s Myopic Letter Concerning NC’s Social Studies Standards

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Variations of the above quote have issued forth from many famous orators. It is hard not to have come across a version of this proverbial statement in anyone’s lifetime.

But there is a difference between hearing something and listening to it.

North Carolina’s new Lt. Gov. needs to do more listening and honestly reflect on what has happened in our country’s past.

In the past few days, the NC State Board of Education has been grappling with changing social studies standards to be used in public schools. Much attention has centered around the use of certain words to accurately name trends and societal forces that deeply need investigation by any serious student.

Terms like “systemic racism,” “gender identity,” and “systemic discrimination” are not acceptable to people like Lt. Mark Robinson and State Superintendent Catherine Truitt.

The following letter is a statement released by Robinson, who is the first black man to serve in the office of Lt. Gov. in this state. He is a republican and has not been shy about his stances on racial tensions in the United States. In fact he stated in a debate last fall, “I don’t believe in systemic racism.” 

Aside from the fact that this missive begins with quotation marks which have no ending partner and that there are many comma-happy sentences and that “American” is treated as a noun, this letter actually proves the very ignorance that its writer suffers from when looking at history.

No one is totally immune from mistakes in grammar, usage, and mechanics (including high school English teachers), but in an age where we are trying to vaccinate people against a deadly virus, we can strive to be immune from narrow-minded views of the past.

It is a tad ironic that Robinson state in his opening paragraph that “standards should be drafted without an underlying agenda, (his comma) and without political motivations” and then automatically blame it on a radical left. Nothing political about that at all.

He continues with this paragraph:

Robinson says, “We need to teach our children how to think and not what to think.” Is Robinson ready to help eliminate almost every standardized test this state mandates that seeks to quantify all learning based on knowledge points? Is he ready to have students do more writing tests to show critical thinking processes and back up arguments with valid evidence and analysis? Or is Robinson suggesting that students think a certain way?

Yes. It seems that he wants them to think a certain way and not actually look and honestly reflect on our country’s past. Look at this paragraph closely:

Of course the message is clear – to Robinson. For someone who uses vague terms such as “indoctrination,” “agenda,” and “ideology” and never explains exactly what those actually mean only wants to push a two-dimensional world view where anything that he does not agree with is obviously “radical” and aligned with political enemies. And he wants to talk about being “divisive.”

Robinson does not want students to learn that we live in a nation where racism still prevails on many levels. Robinson does not think people have the freedom to be disgusted with what is happening in our nation. Robinson does not want students to have the very facts of our past so that they can actually critically think and reflect upon them to help mold a future that does not repeat our nation’s past transgressions.

Or maybe Robinson would like to explain forced slavery, the Three/Fifths Compromise, internment camps, the Trail of Tears, Jim Crow laws, eugenics experiments, segregated schools, the Civil Rights Movement, the prison pipeline, or racial gerrymandering within the frame of his myopic thinking.

For a man who professes a Christian faith, he should know that God loves all his children despite their shortcomings, despite their sins. We humans are imperfect. In fact we are tragically flawed. According to Robinson, it is impossible to love a nation if it has faults or a past that does not fit a rosy narrative. To deny that things in our nation’s past never happened and still do not influence us today is really to deny one of God’s greatest gifts: to reflect on past transgressions in order to not repeat them.

I do agree with some of what Robinson states in his last paragraph. “Our children deserve better” and should have a “quality education.”

But they deserve to know the truth about our nation’s past.