Arming students with knowledge

A year ago, I did not know what Diversity, Equality and Inclusion curriculum was. I did, however, know that a black man had been murdered when a policeman placed his knee on his neck for more than 8 minutes. I knew that violence against black people by the authorities was an ongoing problem.

What I did not know was how these situations came about, so I began to read. I read Ibram X. Kendi’s “Stamped from the Beginning,” Isabel Wilkerson’s “The Warmth of Other Suns,” Kiese Laymon’s “Heavy,” James Baldwin’s “If Beale Street Could Talk,” and Colson Whitehead’s “The Nickel Boys.” These were not the first books I read about the history of black people in America, and I came away knowing there is much work to be done to make America the “more perfect union” that our forefathers envisioned. 

Do I feel “ashamed” of my whiteness? No. Because I know that it is not a zero-sum game - helping black people will not hurt white people. In fact, it has been shown that in communities where black people and white people have the most equality, everyone benefits. What upset me were the ways in which American history curriculum of my childhood failed me.

Growing up, I was taught that the South had slaves, but Lincoln freed them. Then came Reconstruction and black people got the right to vote but there was segregation until the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and civil rights ended it. And we lived happily ever after in a post-racial society.

Opponents to DEI curriculum are advocating for the history of my childhood, calling it “traditional American history.” It lacks the horrors of slavery, suggesting that slaves liked being enslaved. It leaves out how lawmakers responded to Reconstruction by restricting voting rights with grandfather clauses and literacy tests. There is no mention of lynching or the Tulsa massacre. It doesn’t cover redlining, which kept black people from owning property, denying them the easiest way to accrue generational wealth. There is nothing about the prison industrial system which disproportionately locks up people of color, trapping them in a cycle of poverty and crime. 

Through reading I learned about the contemporary landscape of inequality and how it exists under the law and through public policy. The reading did not turn me into a Marxist. It did make me want to properly educate my own children about the history of the United States – not so that they would hate their country but so that they will love their fellow citizens. My goal is not to have them say that they do not “see” color, but to have them understand what color represents – how it explains their culture, history and their struggle.

It is important that we give students the truth. There needs to be racial literacy enabling teachers to educate their students, who will grow up to be adults who strive to create a just society. By keeping DEI curriculum, we will be arming Ohio’s students with the skills and knowledge they need to become successful, empathetic and empowered adults.

Brooke Zelwin

Solon

Issue with political cartoon

This letter is in response to the political cartoon in the recent addition of the Times referring to the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Justice Task Force in the Chagrin Falls school district and to recent letters to the editor from district parents.

The snarky political cartoon is another disappointment to this reader and it is similar to many of those that appear in the left leaning Cleveland newspaper. Editors of both papers’ angst over the growing divisions in our country but they don’t seem to appreciate their role in exacerbating division with these cartoons. If only they were just cartoons.

The concerned parents of a number of Chagrin Falls school children were openly and honestly questioning the appropriateness of teaching critical race theory in the school. It is far from clear that this “theory” will actually improve race relations. What is clear is that it is creating disharmony in Chagrin Falls and across the country.

It is fully appropriate for the Chagrin school system to appoint a task force to develop standards and rules for comportment and treatment of students and staff. And certainly diversity, inclusion and justice are worthy ideals for which to strive. And so is equality. We can only hope that those efforts result in equity. Equity, however, cannot be achieved without a confiscatory tax. We should leave the virtue signaling to Coca-Cola and Major League Baseball.

Paul Brandt

Chagrin Falls

Trail would benefit Pepper Pike

Mayor Richard Bain and the leadership of Pepper Pike are proposing a multipurpose recreational trail on the median of Gates Mills Boulevard that runs through Pepper Pike. The pathway would allow for a safe haven, in a park like setting, for walkers, bikers, roller skaters and parents pushing strollers, by avoiding oncoming traffic in the streets. This would be a dream come true for residents of Pepper Pike who have craved this amenity for years. It would serve as an attraction for new families to the surrounding areas and without doubt increase the property value of the homes in the city.  

While the median was originally built by the Van Sweringen brothers in the 1920s for train transportation, the tracks were never laid and the land has gone unused for 100 years. However, with Mayor Bain’s vision, the median can finally serve a greater purpose for the community as it exists now. We fully support the mayor and council’s proposal, and hope that construction for this legacy project will start as soon as possible. 

Michael and Lydia Frankel

Pepper Pike

Securing blessings of liberty

Congratulations on reprinting opinions from professional academics under the title “Who Shapes History” as your lead editorial on June 17/18.

To those who oppose the airing of uncomfortable social issues, one might ask before they move on, “What makes you uncomfortable, and why?”

When Thomas Paine complained during 1776 about the summer soldier and sunshine patriot, he was not anticipating a quick and painless solution to overcoming hereditary privilege.

Welcome to the real world. Or as Dr. Ben Franklin reportedly responded when asked what the Constitutional Convention had wrought, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

The genius of the American political system is that it never puts an end to the battle between the forces that shape history. An honest reckoning of the past may be uncomfortable but reckon with the past we must if we hope, in the words of the Constitution, to form a more perfect union to “promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

Stephen G. Thomas

Moreland Hills

Save Chardon Square

We are probably a little late and a few tax dollars short to weigh in on this topic but are saddened to hear how our County Commissioners feel the need to build a “Google-style” campus to house county services in Claridon Township and vacate Main Street on Chardon Square. One of the very reasons we chose to relocate to this section of Ohio was after an exhaustive morning of house hunting and taking a breather on the Chardon Square. We loved the sense of community the square offered: the library, restaurants, shops and antique store. Especially, the quaint tax payment drop-box. Somehow using this box on the square always makes the tax payment sting just a little less because it feels like the payment is part of a real community. However, it turns out those coffers are just going to the great county building fund.

While our Geauga County Commissioners decided that moving services into one newly constructed location was the best use of our resources, it appears to highlight our throw-away society. You would think after figuring out how to provide services during a pandemic, one would think we could possibly retrofit our Main Street offices rather than just whisk away the occupants and services they provide into a newly built campus.

We truly hope that once those county spaces are vacated, we won’t be stuck with years of ‘for lease’ signs on Main Street. There are plenty of those signs at so many commercial establishments in our county already. Commissioner Tim Lennon mentioned, in previous Times/Courier articles regarding this project, how there’s still plenty of economic development in our county and Chardon. While not commercial real estate experts, we are going to disagree with him on that prospect. True economic progress is in sustaining the things we value. Chardon Square should remain the touchstone of our community and county government.

Bob and Beth Kandra

Hambden Township

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