Irrational Fears About Wayne Schools

I believe almost everyone reading this loves Wayne. We live in a wonderful community that is enhanced by the voluntarism of many of our residents. Our schools are among the best in the state. We have more open space that most suburbs including the pristine 1300 acres of the High Mountain Preserve, the Laurelwood Arboretum, and one of George Washington’s headquarters, the Dey Mansion. But recent weeks have seen some of our residents falling prey to irrational fears – many of which will be discussed at our Board of Education meeting this Thursday. For example, one comment on social media says, our schools are “teaching white kids that they are evil and inherently horrible humans and teaching kids of color that if something is wrong with their lives it is the white kids fault.”

None of the negative social media posts I could find gives even one specific example from the curriculum or the June 10th public presentation on diversity, equity, and inclusion. In fact, the entire curriculum is posted online. (https://sites.google.com/wayneschools.com/curriculum/home) Comments like this appear despite the reality that the Anti-Defamation League has designated all 15 of the township’s schools as No Place for Hate Schools for the last four years. Moreover, the Superintendent of Schools has issued an open letter to clarify things that includes the following: “No.-Critical Race Theory is not part of the curriculum. Ultimately, our teachers include a variety of perspectives and sources when covering historical content to help students form their own ideas, but not to indoctrinate students into any particular way of thinking about an issue or historical event.” (https://nj02210894.schoolwires.net/cms/lib/NJ02210894/Centricity/domain/8/file/announcements/Letter%20from%20the%20Superintendent%206%2017%2021.docx.pdf)

What is so threatening about ensuring that our schools encourage diversity, equity, and inclusion? Virtually every immigrant group has faced these issues. Additionally, recent years have seen major increases in hate crimes based on race and/or religion – demanding an extra effort from us to teach young people the values embedded in our country’s founding documents and preparing them to deal with those who do not believe in those values. I think they are perfectly capable of understanding that they are not to blame for the sins of the past but must be vigilant to keep the past from repeating itself.

Naturally, the schools have and will continually re-examine how they handle these issues; and just as naturally, they have and will remain transparent and answer the questions of concerned parents. Wayne’s schools are such an asset to our community precisely because they continue to evolve and improve in everything from issues like this to new discoveries in science. Just as much as we must encourage discussion of how best to handle these issues, we must ignore voices suggesting that the discussion itself s is divisive.

John Pennington

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