Opinion

We Are Parent Choice Advocates and Want Our Children to Be Taught A Full Accounting of Our Nation’s History

By RaShaun Kemp | November 17, 2021

Toni Morrison’s 1987 novel about the horrors of slavery, Beloved, has been the target of a book-banning campaign in Virginia by some parent activists and the state’s newly elected Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin.

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I want to issue a warning to all my parent-choice supporting friends. Rhetoric from the most recent election season has us at a very dangerous crossroads. While we celebrate the election of candidates who support a parent’s right to choose the best school for their child — whether they are progressive or conservative — we must also speak out against any possible hijacking of our decades-long fight for the empowerment of parents through school choice.

As analysts dissect the data from a political race they may try to lump all parental choice supporters into the same messaging box. To be clear, we are not one monolithic voting bloc who disagrees with a fair accounting of our country’s history being taught to our children. We do want our children to learn about slavery and the ongoing effects of racism.

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There are people out here who believe the school environment that is best for their child is one in which Toni Morrison novels are not part of the curriculum. And that’s fine. They can have their choice, just like we can have ours. However, my plea to my friends in the education reform movement is do not allow a highly respected, well-regarded, and, in many ways, revered author in the Black community to be demonized as a political hot potato.

I implore those of us in the parent choice community to make it abundantly clear that we stand for parents having the right to choose and educators having the power to create curriculums that tell the truth in ways that will empower our children to be braver than we were, poised and prepared to take on the future because they have learned about their ancestors’ past.

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This year’s political campaigns would have you believe that parent choice advocates side with one political party over the other, simply because our interests converge over public charter schools. That is simply not true. Let’s not let politicians twist our advocacy to best fit their needs.

As a Black parent and leader of the Freedom Coalition for Charter Schools, it is very clear to me that education choice is a winning political platform and sound policy. Our coalition is an organization that currently has 250 organizational members across 21 states that collectively serve more than 1 million Black and Brown families. We believe in parents having the freedom to choose the best schools for their children, regardless of their income or zip code. We fight for these liberatory freedoms every day. 

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We cannot allow parent choice to be muddied by the voices out there arguing against CRT, especially considering they are at best unaware that it is an academic theory that is being discussed in graduate schools and at worst, using this as a proxy argument against children learning about the honest history of our country.

I am one who believes that children will be better citizens if they learn both the dark and beautiful facts that make America the promising country that it is.

RaShaun Kemp is the executive director of the Freedom Coalition for Charter Schools, which promotes public charter schools and chartering to advance and protect the right of self-determination for Black and brown people.

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