After reading the recent Atlantic magazine article about the Black Lives Matter curriculum at District 65, I carefully explored the District’s website description of the curriculum for K-2nd graders.
As is often the case, the description was vague, and it lacked details. However, when I read the children’s book, “Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness,” I was shocked to see how utterly developmentally inappropriate it is, particularly for young children. Although the book is written as a children’s book, with illustrations, the content is frightening and not really digestible for very young children, whose prefrontal cortexes are in the early stages of development.
The National Association For the Education of Young Children has long said that curriculum for the youngest learners needs to be deeply relevant and composed of elements of their daily lives. For example, the story includes a scene of two young children, separately exploring a store, by themselves, and a security guard watches the Black child in a suspicious way while ignoring the white child. First of all, not many kindergarteners wander stores by themselves, and scaring them about security guards is not helpful.
Teaching young children an anti-bias curriculum along the lines of that designed years ago by Louise Derman Sparks is an important task, which includes creating inclusive, accepting classroom communities in which differences among children are explored and valued rather than judged.
Helping children learn about fairness and avoiding discrimination by creating just classrooms in which children explore examples of unfairness and cruelty or unkindness is a good thing.
Frightening them about police shootings of innocent people is not appropriate. While it is shameful that Black parents must at some point “have the conversation” about dealing with the police, while white parents don’t need to, I’m guessing that most minority parents don’t have that conversation with their kindergarteners.
Teaching respect and polite language with adult authority figures while also teaching children how to appropriately verbally assert themselves are appropriate lessons for young children.
Again, this story book is outrageously inappropriate for very young children of any color.
It’s a shame that in an effort to do the right thing, once again, District 65 has gotten it very, very wrong.
— Nancy Bruski