Critical Race Theory and Wyoming Education

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 4:55 PM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - Critical Race Theory has come under fire as a touchstone for racial equality in recent months.

Although it’s not taught in most schools, some historical race issues are taught in some schools.

Raising the question of whether the history and civics taught in most schools are diverse or inclusive enough?

“We really want to be pro-active about ensuring that all students have access a comprehensive and inclusive U.S. and Wyoming history education, as well as a comprehensive and inclusive civics education. That doesn’t mean we shy away from the hard topics like racism and slavery and the way our American Indians and Indigenous people were treated when the country was founded. It doesn’t mean we shy away from difficult topics that are happening in contemporary society today, like the murder of George Floyd for example. We want to be really intentional about how we teach that, “said Jillian Balow, Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Recently the Fordham Institute released a report about the national state of Social Studies standards. Wyoming received an “F” in U.S. History and Civics, citing that they lacked several key concepts.

The one bright spot in the curriculum was the unit on Wyoming Indigenous Tribes, where local tribe elders and community members’ oral history and information became resources incorporated into the curriculum.

Balow wants to ensure the school system approaches all cultures with that same intentionality. Unfortunately, the national educational, cultural gap has been years in the making.

The inception of “No Child Left” behind meant subjects like Social Studies and Civics took a back seat, as Reading, Writing and Math pushed to the forefront.

As the need for S.T.E.M. or Science and Tech has recently increased, it has left history and cultural awareness by the wayside.

As Social Studies and Civics improvement come more in focus, Balow says STEM may help set up the path for growing the Social Studies and Civics curriculum.

Further, to meet future expectations, according to the 2020 census data, people who identify as multi-racial or multi-ethnic have increased from 9 million in 2010 to 33.8 million in 2020.

“The work force of tomorrow looks different than it did yesterday, and part of that is diversity. As we prepare our students to succeed in Wyoming or elsewhere, we are preparing them for more diversity in the workplace and our community,” said Balow.

With Wyoming’s large military presence and expanding industrial economic growth attracting more people to the state, diversity won’t be far behind.

In the legislative works is a draft bill to create transparency around the civics curriculum at the school level, and Wyoming Social Studies standards are up for review in 2023 to 2024.

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