We have problems with truth-telling in this country. Even clear questions like, “What caused the Civil War?” or “Why are we having so many fires in California?” or “How bad is the pandemic?” are met with an incredible range of answers, some based on evidence, and others based on false narratives found on TV or online. But one place we always hope to find truth, or at least honest inquiry, is in our public schools. Our Unitarian Universalist 4th Principle calls for a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. When public education is based on partisan wishes rather than historical or scientific accuracy, we give our children a poor basis for their own search for truth and meaning.
In Fairfax County, our most recent school board fights have been about the inclusion of literature that features transgender characters, something that is vitally important for queer, trans and gender-nonconforming youth. All over the country, we’ve seen countless fights about public schools. Parents and communities have fought for children and teens to learn accurate biology (including sex ed and evolution), ecology (including climate change) and history (including accurate portrayals of slavery). More recently, school boards in our area and throughout the country have been struggling with the concept of critical race theory (CRT).
Critical race theory is a legal framework that’s not taught in K-12 schools, nor is it taught in Fairfax County Public Schools. It’s sometimes taught at the university level, especially within law schools. CRT posits that race is a social construct, and that racism is not just about individual prejudice, but embedded in our legal systems and policies (Citation: https://www.edweek.org/leadership/what-is-critical-race-theory-and-why-is-it-under-attack/2021/05).
To counter the baseless claims of anti-CRT politics and reinforce the importance of teaching inclusive history, UUCF will sponsor a virtual teach-in on Sat., Jan. 15, 2-4 p.m. The teach-in commemorates Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. It also coincides with Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin’s first day in office, a date he has vowed to “ban CRT” in the Commonwealth. Event organizers aim to counter disinformation about CRT and lift up how quality education needs to include “teaching truth.” One of the action-based goals of this event and its organizers going forward is the pledge to provide a free, inclusive-history curriculum, already in development by UUCF’s Religious Education Program, for faith communities and other non-governmental organizations not constrained by political whims.
This virtual teach-in will feature an exciting array of panelists from throughout Virginia and beyond. I hope you’ll consider joining me at the teach-in, and in creating educational opportunities that help today’s youth prepare for their own educational and spiritual journeys.