'I did not feel safe': South Carolina teacher recalls being ordered to stop teaching lessons on racism

'I did not feel safe': South Carolina teacher recalls being ordered to stop teaching lessons on racism
Image via screengrab.

Earlier this month, South Carolina teacher Mary Wood was ordered by school administrators to "cease" teaching about the history of racism after two students complained that the topic offended them.

"Students in an advanced placement language arts class at Chapin High School last spring were scheduled to read Between the World and Me, a 2015 memoir by writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, recapping American racial history and its impact on his life growing up Black in inner-city Baltimore. The memoir was written in the form of a letter addressed to Coates' teenaged son," The Statereported on June 12th.

Wood's lesson plan, the outlet noted, directed students "to analyze and respond to some of Coates' arguments in the book. Instructions include 'Describe Coates' primary statement regarding identity and your position about his argument,' 'Describe your understanding of systemic racism,' and 'Do you think racism is a pervasive problem in America? Why or why not?'"

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As recalled by The State, "For the 2022-23 school year, S.C. lawmakers added a proviso to the state budget that prohibited state money from being spent to teach various ideas related to race, including 'an individual, by virtue of his race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive,' 'bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex,' or that 'an individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his race or sex.' The motion was passed to combat supposed 'critical race theory' in South Carolina schools. Critical race theory is an academic framework for studying how the development of laws and public policy contribute to racial inequity. The theory is normally used in high-level university courses, but critics have applied the term to almost any discussion of race or racism in K12 schools."

In a letter to Superintendent Akil Ross and the school board, Wood wrote, "In this culture, EVERYTHING may be considered controversial," adding, "To prevent conversations about experiences which exist outside of heterosexual, caucasian norms is both biased and discriminatory and completely antithetical to the development of critical thinking and civil discourse, which is the entire point of an AP Lang course."

On Sunday, Wood told MSNBC's The Mehdi Hasan Show that "We are losing teachers at rapid rates. We've lost some great colleagues this year and it's quite upsetting. You know, the, prior to this experience, my classroom was a lovely environment. It was like a family. We had lively debates. Students were able to engage with each other with different perspectives, and at the end of a debate, go back to being friends. After this happened, those debates were stopped. I was afraid to allow it. My students always asked, 'Can we please have debates?' And I did not feel safe in doing so. So there was a censorship of the material, but there was also a censorship of instruction and proper engagement in classrooms."

Watch the clip below or at this link.

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The State's report continues here.

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