Teaching kids about race under Iowa’s new law

Published: Feb. 11, 2022 at 6:20 AM CST
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HIAWATHA, Iowa (KCRG) - What does teaching kids about race and racism look like now?

This February is the first Black History Month following a national conversation about critical race theory and since Iowa passed a law banning teaching certain concepts about race.

We found at least one example of how race is being discussed with kids now at a Cedar Rapids elementary school.

Dr. Venise Berry, Department Head of African American Studies at the University of Iowa, visited Nixon Elementary School on Tuesday. She spoke to a group of kindergarteners about her “experience in Iowa as an African American person.” She also read to the students from L is for Liberty. She said the book is about Liberia, a country founded by freed slaves who returned to Africa from America.

Dr. Berry said sharing stories can be powerful.

“It’s very important that we understand that all experience isn’t the same,” she said. “And the only way that we can know how to treat each other is to understand each other’s experience. And to me, that is what teaching race is about.”

Parents we spoke with shared her viewpoint. Tyler Melton said it was important kids learn about “the past and all the struggles that other folks had to go through that certain other folks didn’t have to go through.” He added that he picked his daughter earlier this year and “it was Martin Luther King Day and she was talking about it and I thought it was great that she learned about that in school.”

Tuesday’s lesson at Nixon Elementary is just one example of how topics relating to race are being taught in Iowa schools; it doesn’t provide an overview. However, it is a piece of evidence that demonstrates some of what kids are learning about race after the new law.

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