CCSD parents speak out on issues of race and inclusivity in curriculum

BY FREDA MIKLIN – STAFF WRITER

In recent meetings of the Cherry Creek School District Board of Education (CCSD), several parents have made pointed remarks on issues involving how different groups are treated and their lack of inclusion in district curriculum.

At the regular monthly CCSD school board meeting on March 8, a woman who described herself as an African-American mother of a 5th grader at CCSD’s Arrowhead Elementary told the board that her daughter and her daughter’s 21 classmates were given “a slave test.” She read from what she said was the test, “Question number eight: In general, which slave had the hardest life? Was it A) a field worker B) house-servant C) skilled carpenter, or D) kitchen gardener…We have a serious problem…You have been infecting our children with racism, colorism, white supremacy, white privilege. Not only did you teach this, you graded it. My child…came to me and said, “Mama, you’re going to be really upset at this test that I took. We’re learning for Black History Month, slavery.” Our history started here in the Bible, not at the capturing of slaves…of African ancestry. I’m not an immigrant. I’m a luxury import, to build your country and your lives. You’re not going to keep teaching our children lies.” She then read another question she said was from the test her daughter took. “What was an overseer’s main job? A) to evaluate the price of slaves” (she did not read the other answer options) but continued, “I asked my daughter, how much does a slave cost…with inflation and now I know how to read. You’re not going to keep selling lies. You should be ashamed…We have knees on our neck and an education system that let this fall through the cracks.…At least $40 million goes to pay for the education system here in the state of Colorado, but I’m from the southern Confederate south that built this country from cotton to cannabis. You…need to unteach this lie. This textbook, where you have a picture of an overseer, and you said, “Why do you think this man is being whipped?…You’re going to have to unlearn and unteach and redo and tell the community what you’ve been teaching fifth graders at Arrowhead Elementary for the last ten years since this book was published…You’re going to have to fix this.”

The following day, The Villager reached out to CCSD for a response to these statements. They told us, “We are already in the process of reviewing curriculum and instructional materials to ensure they are aligned to our values of inclusivity and racial and cultural equity. Teachers are getting ongoing training and support about state standards and how to apply them through a culturally responsive lens. In this instance, the lesson and content standards were not appropriately taught. We have addressed the matter through the personnel process.”

On April 12, at the regular monthly meeting of the school board, Colleen Chan, founder of the CCSD Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) task force, said, “There is an urgent need for immediate implementation of Asian American history in our social studies curriculum…History textbooks often define whose experiences and perspectives are necessary, legitimate, and significant in telling the story of the United States…What is included in the curriculum sends a message to students…For far too long, Asians have been virtually erased from American history…thereby excluding us from being part of this national identity. In grades four, eight, and ten, we teach Colorado state history, but (it) leaves out Denver’s Hop Alley (Denver’s original Chinatown near 20th and Blake Streets, once home to approximately 1,400 Chinese immigrants, razed in 1940 and replaced with warehouses and industrial buildings), the critical contribution of Chinese miners and railroad workers, without whom the west would have never been developed.” Chan emphasized the importance of instituting curriculum changes this summer.

Moonsun Chang, a parent of two Cherry Creek High School students and the principal of the Korean Academy of Colorado located in Cresthill Middle School in Highlands Ranch, said, also at the April 12 school board meeting, “Everyone is familiar with this country’s beginnings, but many people do not know that during the California gold rush in the 1850’s, the Chinese, followed by the Japanese and the Koreans and the Vietnamese (legally immigrated to the United States).” Chang explained that despite more than 170 years of living in the U.S., Asian Americans born in this country are frequently asked where they are from, because it is assumed they were born elsewhere. “We need to start this change with education,” she said, adding, “Schools are a place that not only convey knowledge to students, but also form their consciousness.” 

Later that evening, Kristie Dang explained that her two children who attend Cottonwood Creek Elementary School are half Vietnamese and half Scandinavian. Working in the human resources field, she said, “I strongly believe that (discrimination claims she has dealt with in her job) could have been avoided with earlier education on our diverse American history (that) includes Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, and so many other marginalized groups…We need to teach (our students) the language of equity. We need to show them that learning should reflect a full and accurate history of all Americans…We (need) to add their stories to our incomplete American history curriculum…This country is on the edge of change when it comes to embracing diversity and I’d like to ask (CCSD) to be one of the first districts to take the lead for Asian Americans. Please add in the curriculum that’s necessary to include their history.”

fmiklin.villager@gmail.com

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