Dear Michael Goar and esteemed Minneapolis School Board members,
I felt compelled to write this post to you all to express my concern for what appears to be an utter disregard for issues being raised by parents, students, teachers, and community members about the racist and sexist Reading Horizons curriculum that MPS purchased from a Utah-based company.
The fact that racially derogatory and stereotypical characters like Lazy Lucy could emerge in reading materials meant for the district’s youngest learners merely reinforces notions of structural racism and a lack of cultural competency amongst district administrators. The pattern of choosing such offensive curriculum, like that from Reading Horizons and the slavery reenactment game, that was highly publicized previously, is part of a larger set of discriminatory decisions that create a racially hostile learning environment for children of color and reinforces false notions of the superiority of White children.
As you know, children of color are frequently relegated to racially and economically segregated schools, disproportionate rates of suspensions and school arrests, placed in alternative schools and special education at high rates, are systematically denied access to gifted and talented programs, and are more likely to have teachers with less experience and lower credentials in comparison to the Whitest, most affluent schools in the district.
All of these factors combined have created a de-facto Jim Crow-type system within MPS, in which children of color receive an education that is both separate and unequal and sets them up for failure and creates a direct entry route into the criminal justice system.
This is completely unacceptable and unconscionable. There is not an achievement gap in the district; there is a gap in caring adults who make decisions that are truly in the best interests of the district’s most vulnerable children. That is the real gap that exists.
Merely removing the offensive Reading Horizons materials will not solve the problem. You must dig up the rotten root in this instance, which requires a total cancellation of the contract and a sincere public apology to the community.
Beyond canceling the contract, it is imperative that you begin to see the community as equal stakeholders and take the ongoing concerns and suggestions being made seriously. As I stated in a previous MinnPost article, Minneapolis Public Schools needs to be completely rebooted if it is to make good on its promise to provide a decent education to all children, and not just the ones who live in Southwest.
The time for change is now. And it will come, whether through protests, lawsuits, or divine intervention. It’s time to do right by our community and our most precious resource — our children.
Thank you in advance for your consideration.
Nekima Levy-Pounds, Esq.
President, Minneapolis NAACP