What is it that unites us as citizens of a republic where a former slave becomes a great orator for the abolition effort and insists upon education as the means for keeping all men and women free?

Frederick Douglass — a slave — traveled to New England embraced by many and stated his case. Wisely, he resisted being drawn into politics and appealed instead to man’s higher nature, Lincoln’s leadership, and The Declaration of Independence as guidance. He, after all, credited a white slave owner’s wife who taught him to read opening the door to thought and reason causing him to understand many things.

Race relations today and the vast achievement gap of Black and brown students that do not allow them to participate in that vision articulated over 150 years ago must be addressed. For this parents need school choice.

Equally important, all students need a long view of our country’s history that keeps us free and united. We are quickly losing this battle as politics and socialism replace our history and students hear different voices causing them to march, claiming systemic racism. Real progress in race relations relies on knowledge of our Declaration and Constitution as context for progress made: Progress evidenced by the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments; progress noted by the work of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders who looked to the past to build on the future, not to tear it down; progress made in the future for school choice which is a necessary hand up!

Today’s high school students desire an end to racism, and focus on the history curriculum in their suburban schools as the culprit for not preparing them for race relations today. Yet racism doesn’t exist in a vacuum apart from the history and civics which has been given short shrift in social studies since the early 1980’s! Only when our country’s history is respected and focused on the past and present as a continuum to the future are we allowed to see the progress made in race relations since our founding in 1776.

At the same time students learn uncomfortable truths about our country, including slavery, which many have risen above. Our Declaration and Constitution must once again be understood.

Susan Harris is a retired U.S. History teacher from Cheshire.

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