A New View of Critical Race Theory, Pt. 2

I discussed in part 1 my feelings or breakdown of Critical Race Theory. CRT has a deep meaning that is generally taught at the university level in law school and you can read about that in my previous blog. In my previous blog I also shared the definition of critical, race, and theory, which leads to my thoughts on teaching children to take a critical look at race and theories that are part of American history. Lastly, I am deeply concerned about the lack of teaching social studies in schools and when I say lack of teaching, I mean the accurate history. We can not change history or deny that something took place in the past, but we are bound to repeat it and/or raise a generation that lacks the knowledge to understand how our country was created and think critically moving forward.

I have chosen to start with the colonization of America as I take a critical look at theories taught in classrooms across America and more specifically the tradition of Thanksgiving. Now, you may be imagining cute little boys and girls dressed as Pilgrims and Indians heading off to the cafeteria to enjoy a traditional school Thanksgiving lunch, but that is not accurate and we still continue to perpetuate that historical inaccuracy. Why? Do we believe our students can not handle the truth? Do we as adults believe this is the accurate story of Thanksgiving? Have we ourselves chosen to ignore that hundreds of Native Americans were killed or sold into slavery? Do you know that Thanksgiving came about because of Sarah Josepha Hale’s 38 year campaign?

Shall we dive into some background knowledge concerning the Europeans and Native Americans. I could never cover the entire history in a blog post so I have chosen to highlight some important facts. The New England tribes already had an autumn harvest feast of thanksgiving. Another fact is Squanto was kidnapped and sold into slavery with others by English explorer Thomas Hunt. Squanto was purchased by monks and received his freedom to return to North America in 1619. In 1621, William Bradford, governor of the Plymouth Colony, decided to have a feast and invited Massasoit and 90 warriors to come to the 3 day feast and this feast was a harvest festival. A harvest festival was a tradition celebrated by Europeans brought to America. Many refer to this as the first Thanksgiving, but the reality is this feast dealt with political alliances, diplomacy, and an attempt to peacefully coexist, according to Harvest Ceremony, Beyond the Thanksgiving Myth. According to the National Museum of the Native Indians, the English continued to attack and encroach on Native American land in spite of their agreements. The interactions with the settlers had devastating effects on the culture of the American Indian. Lastly, many Native Americans in New England gather together on Thanksgiving and it is a day remembrance and mourning. The colonization of now America was not “good” for everyone and not peaceful.

There are some that will argue what is wrong with letting the students dress up and believe the myth that continues to be spread. I counter with what is wrong with teaching students the accurate story of Sarah Josepha Hale and the first Thanksgiving, as it is a fascinating story. She campaigned for 38 years and wrote letters to five different presidents. Abraham Lincoln finally said yes. It was a time to bring the country together as victory loomed for the Union. I also argue that children can be taught about the history between the Native Americans and the colonists. It can begin by learning about the Native American culture in the younger grades. Children love to learn about the world around them and are able to look critically at injustices in our nation’s history on their level.

I close with the thought that in order to understand how we got to where we are we must begin at the beginning. I’ve given a quick critical look at the theory used to teach about Thanksgiving in the lower grades that ultimately leads to stereotyping and is an injustice to Native Americans (race).

In part three of my blog post concerning my look at CRT, I will be discussing the enslavement of African Americans and how I teach this concept to first graders through a picture book.

Until next time…..Dandelion Dreams