Fight against racism starts with education

Originally published in The Detroit News – June 29, 2020

This has been a tough few weeks for our nation. Americans are once again confronted with a 400-year-old systemic problem, one we cannot continue to ignore. Difficult conversations about racism are happening around the dinner table, on social media, and even on Sesame Street — and more lie ahead. These conversations about race, justice and equity are critical to bringing change and to helping our nation heal.

I believe the fight against racism starts with education. Today’s students are looking for answers.

In whatever way schools comes back in session this fall, educators must be prepared for these difficult discussions to continue.

Each year at Insight School of Michigan, English teacher Mae Condalary and I host a guest speaker who shares her life story and the importance of remembering the past to move forward. Dr. Irene Hasenburg Butter, a Holocaust survivor, has spoken to my students for the past two years and for three years when I taught at South Arbor Academy. In her discussions, she shares the horrors she faced and how she now advocates for understanding and compassion of others.

Let’s not let racism persist in our society any longer. It is time for changes that are long overdue. Teachers must take a leading role in providing students with a forum to talk about what happened to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many others, and how we can move forward as an equitable society.

There are a variety of ways to approach this. Hearing from another person’s perspective provides a greater weight than words in a textbook ever could. I recommend bringing in someone with firsthand experience confronting racism and fighting for change. Whether this is a local leader or a community activist or anyone with a story that needs to be shared, letting students hear personal experiences shows them that something is real, and that it is happening now.

I also urge you to remember our past in ways to move forward. If we neglect our past, we will never make progress. Consider what we can do differently to truly bring change because this is certainly not the first time we are holding these difficult conversations.

Our nation’s students are looking to us to lead them. It is time to light the path forward.

Larry Biederman, high school science teacher, Insight School of Michigan

To learn more about Insight School of Michigan, visit https://mi.insightschools.net/

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