What Do You Want Your 7-Year Old to Learn about Lynching?

A story yesterday from Jacksonville, Florida raises some difficult questions about what we want to teach our children.

According to News4Jax.com, a parent of a second grader complained at the coloring book his child brought home.  The coloring book, “Who Was Jim Crow?” by edhelper.com, included some disturbing racial imagery.  Not least shocking was a picture of a crowd lynching a victim.

Image source: News4Jax.com

Image source: News4Jax.com

As a historian, I think we need to teach young people the sometimes-disturbing story of America’s past.  But this sort of classroom material raises all sorts of questions:

  • How old do Americans need to be to learn about racial stereotyping?
  • How should students be taught about America’s history of racial violence?
  • Should teachers be using cheap on-line teaching materials like this?  Even if the school board approved them?
  • Is this an example of racial political correctness gone wild?  Or is this an example of classroom racism?
  • Can offensive racial stereotyping ever make good teaching materials?
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2 Comments

  1. We certainly can’t turn a blind eye to racial injustice at any age; second graders are probably more than capable of learning some of the aspects of both slavery and the Jim Crow laws. That being said I am not sure the above image is something seven-year-olds are going to be quite ready for. This of course depends on the individual kid, but off the top of my head I would probably feel more comfortable teaching the harsher truths starting somewhere around fifth or sixth grade.

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  1. The Third Rail in American History | I Love You but You're Going to Hell

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