This was not a 2 minute issue. But I claimed the time I was offered by the school board to address this at their meeting. I reached out and got support from some amazing people. Some work in STEM support for underrepresented minoritized students. Some were students who were taking an Education course at the University of Pittsburgh. I gathered my thoughts and this is what I had to say. I didn’t get to express all of it because 2 minutes is a lot shorter than most of us think and I had already gone over time. I hope my thoughts on the issue are helpful to other parents and educators.
Recently my daughter encountered microscope slides labeled Caucasian and Negroid in an anatomy course.
I proposed a curriculum solution that involved free curriculum kits available through the University of Pittsburgh.
But we need restorative work for my daughter and any other students who encountered this language in the classroom. I am not asking for examination of the lesson objectives because as research has proven, you can’t backward design a lesson that is effective if you use language or circumstances that introduce a lack of emotional, physical or intellectual safety. Moreover, no lesson objective justifies the use of racist terminology without providing context and history beforehand.
Use of the term Negroid is a vestige of the eugenics movement. As many of you may know, this was a movement set on proving the superiority of people these pseudo-scientists classified as “white”.
We now know that there is no scientific basis for such classification and certainly no difference in achievement or attainment prospects based on the made-up classifications. However, where the language persists, so does racism.
I am not talking about racism as a personality trait. I am talking about racism as a set of systems, codes, words and policies.
In this case, it is a racist policy to have this term in the curriculum and it should be removed immediately. Not next week, not when curriculum experts get around to it, not next school year. Immediately.
And that removal should also come with guided discussions by anti-racists for our community. I have another daughter is now a senior at the University of Pittsburgh. She likely saw these slides as well when she was a student here. I am truly grateful that they did not deter her from her goal of entering the medical field. But, I think of all the students who may have seen this and thought “science is not for me.” I think of the urgency of equity and inclusion in our STEM fields and I think of the legacy of Dorothy Hoots who fought so hard for this place that we now call Woodland Hills. For them and for our future, let’s do better.