Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in.” — President Abraham Lincoln

As parents, we want to protect our children. We want to wrap them in love and ensure that they are treated with respect. We want them to have access to the best opportunities and to grow to be happy and productive human beings. 

So what happens when we perceive threats to those desired outcomes? Concerns and fears rise, and we stand ready to protect our kids as best we can. Arguably, one of the best forms of protection for our children is knowledge. Of course, there are discrepancies regarding what children should be taught, but we are deceived if we think we can protect our children from learning about harsh realities.

Here are some harsh realities about the impact of race on Kentucky’s children:

  • Almost 70% of Black and Latinx children live in low-income households compared to 41% of White children. 
  • 21.5 per 1,000 Black youth are incarcerated in the juvenile justice system compared to 4.6 per 1,000 White youth. 
  • Black and Latinx students are more than twice as likely to not graduate high school on time compared to their White peers. 

Additionally, research supports the academic and social-emotional gains that all children experience when they have teachers from different cultural backgrounds, yet Kentucky does not have a diverse educator workforce, with 95% of Kentucky teachers identifying as White

God hath made of one blood all nations of men.” — John G. Fee, founder of Berea College, first in the U.S. South to accept interracial and coeducational admissions

Every student deserves an equitable education. Students need access to a diverse teacher workforce and holistic and accurate information that engages critical thinking and the exploration of multifaceted truths—the good, the bad and the ugly. Using culturally-responsive curriculum is an evidence-based practice that promotes a greater sense of belonging for kids and increased academic engagement and achievement.

“Education is the great equalizer.” — Woodford R. Porter, first African American to be elected to the Louisville board of education

“Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.” — Marian Wright Edelman, first Black woman on the Yale board of trustees and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund

What is curriculum and who determines it?

Kentucky law supports the local control of education—meaning each school community determines curriculum for its respective schools. School-based decision making councils (SBDMs) “have the responsibility to set school policy and make decisions outlined in statute, which should provide an environment to enhance student achievement.” 

The state provides academic standards that “contain the minimum required standards that all Kentucky students should have the opportunity to learn before graduating from Kentucky high schools. The standards address what is to be learned, but do not address how learning experiences are to be designed nor what resources should be used.” The “how” is determined by SBDMs. 

Kentucky’s Model Curriculum Framework is designed to provide guidance to schools and districts in implementing research-based practices that support the implementation of standards and promote student equity. “The curriculum addresses how learning experiences are designed at the local level.”

The academic standards for social studies specifically call for content to be “based on evidence-based research” with a “focus on critical knowledge, skills and capacities needed for success in the global economy.” 

“[Help] the ones who [need] to be taught, educated and given a chance to learn sound principles of health.” — Dr. Grace Marilynn James, first African American woman on the faculty at Louisville’s School of Medicine

What if we are not adequately preparing our children for the evolving world that we live in?

Consider this as we continue to experience the tidal waves of a very traumatic time in which children’s health and wellbeing should be prioritized. Some families are concerned about unmasking their children and masking history. Others are masking their kids and calling for an unmasking of history. 

Regardless of which side you stand on (or somewhere in between), we can all move toward higher ground . . . where the data reside. The numbers don’t lie, and they represent our kids. Let’s put aside the political jockeying and focus on providing children what they need to grow and thrive.

The bottom line is that Kentucky gets what she needs to prosper—a strong community and economy.

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”— Frederick Douglass, abolitionist, educator, social reformer, orator, publisher, and author

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels