The following is a collection of readers’ responses to a set of Opinion pieces that ran on June 5 under the heading “Do diversity, equity, inclusion initiatives belong in our schools?”:
In face of progressive movement, conservatives play the victimhood card
Yossi Sheffi’s “DEI initiatives leave out the people who voted for Trump” exemplifies the conservative effort to seize upon the language of equity and inclusion in order to blunt that movement’s purposes. He equates systematic exclusion and discrimination against historically marginalized communities in higher education with the unpleasant words that a conservative student may occasionally encounter in a debate.
For decades, conservatives have pumped out anecdotes of campus liberals gone too far, some true and many exaggerated or invented. By framing the issue in terms of individual emotional outbursts, they can center the conversation around their own hurt feelings and obscure the persistent structural inequities in admissions and campus life that demand more than a polite exchange of views.
This is the essence of Trumpism: perpetual whining about cancel culture, unfair media coverage, and campus indoctrination so that conservatives can claim victimhood and then make themselves the chief beneficiaries of the social justice ethos that they claim to despise.
Deep River, Conn.
A clumsy argument for an open dialogue
In “DEI initiatives leave out the people who voted for Trump,” Yossi Sheffi argues for open dialogues while erecting two roadblocks to dialogue.
First, by describing “religions” collectively as “righteous, moralistic, unforgiving, and dismissive of any other belief,” he effectively dismisses religion from open dialogue. People of faith are thus rejected with facile stereotypes.
Second, Sheffi proposes to organize dialogue around common ground, and specifies that this includes “family, work, equal opportunity, and support for the military.” Not only does this dictate a predetermined list, but the list itself is also problematic.
I can recall living in France when World War II Vichy coinage was still in circulation. Those coins replaced “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” with “Famille, Travail, Patrie” — family, work, fatherland. These are the “common ground” of a fascist state, although Sheffi’s formulation preserves equality and softens fatherland to military. Still, by inviting “a variety of voices” to a dialogue that rejects my religion while imposing support for questionable values, Sheffi defeats his own project. A less judgmental reset is called for.
Bernard F. Swain
It’s worth bridging the red and blue divide
I agree with Yossi Sheffi’s argument and suggest that the Globe do some research on organizations such as Braver Angels, which is dedicated to facilitating conversations across the red and blue political divide.
Call it ‘critical race history’ and teach it to all
The suggestion that critical race theory works only for graduate students is ridiculous on the face of it (“There’s cause for concern in teaching critical race theory” by Richard L. Cravatts). Elementary school students in good schools have been learning about sexism and gender construction at age-appropriate levels. The same is true for racism.
Why shouldn’t social studies classes teach that the federal government denied the GI Bill to Black veterans and deprived many Black Americans of Social Security benefits, or that banks redlined homes so Black people could not get decent mortgages?
There are many levels of racism, just as there are many levels of sexism and, for that matter, classism and ageism. Civics requires that all children know even difficult facts about their societies so that they can join together to improve the commonweal. This is just common sense. Calling it a “theory” to discredit accurate social history defrauds all of our children.
Margaret Morganroth Gullette
The writer is the author of “Ending Ageism; or, How Not to Shoot Old People,” and a resident scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University.
There are reasons to create ‘safe spaces’
Richard L. Cravatts’s op-ed regarding the teaching of critical race theory in schools is badly flawed. No credible historian can argue that racism is not endemic to American society; racism is built into the structure of America and has been systematically applied and practiced throughout our history. Efforts to address racism include teaching children about racism’s existence and its effects on BIPOC people and creating antiracist environments and programs in schools and elsewhere in our society. Cravatts’s reliance on Tinker v. Des Moines actually supports the opposite of his point. If antiracism is built into school activities and programs, then hate speech in that setting would be “obviously disruptive.”
Regarding his apparent disdain for school “safe spaces” that exclude white children, one result of racism is white privilege. If BIPOC students (Black, indigenous, and people of color) are inhibited by white privilege, then there is reason to exclude white students from certain safe spaces.
David T. Bunker
If a school counselor offers a safe discussion opportunity for, say, students challenged by a physical disability, or those new to town, or those who lost a family member on Sept. 11, 2001, would that be offensive to nondisabled students, townies, or those from intact families? We all need spaces with people with whom we have important characteristics in common. That is easy for those of us who are white to find. Why do we begrudge others who want that too?
Fear not — there’s a danger in teaching anything
To Richard L. Cravatts, I would first reply: There’s a danger in teaching anything — that is, if the concern is how what is taught might be received or how someone might use the information to undesired ends. His case for arguing about the so-called danger of teaching critical race theory is based on the notion that “CRT in practice could label white students, by virtue of skin color alone, as fundamentally racist and part of a group of historical oppressors, and Black students oppressed victims of that systemic racism.”
How one arrives at that conclusion requires more philosophical gymnastics than I am capable of. It’s the type of reasoning that’s been used to justify book burning.
Different groups have used tortured logic to conjure a wide set of prohibitions against all sorts of things. But as educated adults, isn’t it our job to try to provide truthful context for learning and interpreting rather than excuses for why we shouldn’t? CRT is a framework for interpreting, not a set of rules to follow. As such, it has an important, indeed, a crucial, role to play in understanding the history of this country, fearful critics notwithstanding.
A building whose blocks were built on the backs of others
Richard L. Cravatts’s implicit message — that no one is oppressed and no one is an oppressor when it comes to structural racism — landed with a thud. Years of Jim Crow horrors and purposeful discrimination? Let’s not go there. Any benefits white people like me enjoy based on the color of our skin? We are innocent. The fact is that in the United States, we have inherited a building whose blocks were built on the backs of others. Examining those blocks, understanding them, and making good-faith efforts not to keep building upon them is a task worthy of pursuing. Cravatts writes, “Most people of conscience seek schools — and a society — in which bigotry and racism are absent.” Somehow he believes that the way to do this is not to teach about their history or their impact, because we all mean well, and that’s what counts.