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New social studies textbooks headed for Coeur d'Alene classrooms

The Coeur d'Alene School Board will discuss adopting new social studies materials during its Monday board meeting.

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — Worries about critical race theory, global citizenship and out-of-date content were threaded throughout public comment at Monday's meeting of the Coeur d'Alene School Board, as reported by our news partners, the Coeur d'Alene Press.

The trustees unanimously voted to adopt new secondary social studies curriculum resources as well as new and updated curriculum for middle school family and consumer science, middle school computer coding, high school engineering technology/shop, high school medical terminology and high school computer programming and software development.

Trustees did move to not include supplemental social studies materials in the adoption after multiple people raised alarm regarding content in certain workbooks and field journals.

Trustee Heather Tenbrink said all but one of her children are in secondary schools in the district.

"I feel like my kids have had robust social studies instruction," she said. "When there are controversial topics, my children have rarely to never felt like the teacher is telling them what to believe about the controversial topic. They approach it, and offer differing viewpoints, and when my kids have to write an essay they write an essay with what they agree with there … And it's good for them. It's how they develop critical thinking skills."

Nearly 50 community members reviewed the classroom resources in the past 30 days. The majority of the reviews were favorable. Some expressed they were in favor of the adoption but also offered mixed or negative reviews.

"CRT. I can almost feel the eye rolls from some people in the room every time these three letters are mentioned during public comment," meeting attendee Meagan Slawson said when she approached the mic. "Despite the repeated denial of any critical race theory being part of the current curriculum and teaching in the Cd'A School District, there is still a concern among the community."

Slawson called out the district for not providing a definition for critical race theory.

"If you haven't defined it, how do you know what to look for within the curriculum?" Slawson asked. "Was the committee that chose the new social studies curriculum given a definition, or even a guideline of what to look for regarding CRT when researching textbooks, workbooks, teaching guides and resource material?"

Critical race theory is generally defined as an academic framework dating to the 1970s that centers on the idea that racism is systemic in the nation’s institutions and that those institutions maintain the dominance of white people. The theory is a way of analyzing American history through the lens of racism. It has become a catch-all political buzzword for any teaching in schools about race and American history, and how schools address diversity and inclusion.

Anne Seddon shared her concerns about an economics book with out-of-date content.

"They are 7- to 12-year-old graphs and will not give students a perspective on economic conditions in a more modern time," she said. "I believe the purchase of an economic book should be delayed until one is found that is more relevant to the actual lives of these students."

She also objected to the concept of students being "global citizens" in a sixth-grade supplemental workbook.

"I believe the board should set a policy that states the goal of teaching history is to provide students with an understanding of historic world events, cultures and countries," Seddon said. "It should not teach students there is a 'global citizenship.' There is only national citizenship. Empathy and identification with lives and conditions of others is an appropriate subject with the understanding there are no global citizens."

Grant MacLean, of Dalton Gardens, said he hasn't always agreed with district policy decisions, but he's grateful for the quality of public education in Kootenai County.

He said he wanted to refute the assertion that studying truthful history makes for uncomfortable and depressed students.

"Sadly, there has not only been abusive and dehumanizing behavior on the part of many of our leaders and citizens throughout history toward Africans, Asians and Native Americans to name a few, but there's also been a large-scale denial and refusal to take responsibility for that behavior," MacLean said.

He said some people are quick to point out that their own ancestors didn't arrive from Europe until slavery had been abolished, the Trail of Tears had already been taken and the internment camps had been emptied.

"Those folk would do well to reflect on the advantages economic and otherwise that they all enjoy as a result of the oppression of those who happened to have had a different skin color and what it might take to correct the imbalance that continues today," he said. "Winston Churchill was right when he said, 'Those who don't study history are condemned to repeat it.'"

MacLean said America has done much for which the country can be proud.

"There have also been shameful episodes that demand to be recognized if we are to heal from the divisions that those episodes caused," he said. "Our teachers are skilled and dedicated and able to teach all of our children the whole history of our nation in ways that will not demean but will help our children understand and address the discrimination that has been too long repeated."

Curriculum director Katie Graupman, who presented the review findings to the board, said the district doesn't have the licensing to post all the content online. However, parents are welcome to use their child's login information and password to view all the digital information to which their child has access.

The Coeur d'Alene Press is a KREM 2 news partner. For more from our partners, click here.

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