“Diversity is Our Strength,” say Oklahoma Students

Amy Curran
Generation Citizen
Published in
3 min readMay 21, 2021

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Generation Citizen Oklahoma stands with the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, the Oklahoma Women’s Coalition, and our teachers, and students who believe diversity is our strength to strongly oppose anti-civics education legislation like HB 1775 in Oklahoma which will prohibit mandatory diversity training in higher education as well as banning certain approaches to instruction on race and gender and is out of touch with the needs of educators. After an unprecedented year of challenge, teachers need obstacles removed, not added, and need ways to re-engage students in a supporting learning community. Many of the anti-civics bills introduced this legislation in statehouses across the country — there are at least eight, according to EducationWeek — are not aligned with the research on educational standards or resource allocation in a way that maintains local school and educator autonomy.

Generation Citizen Oklahoma applauds the creation of the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed rule emphasizing the importance of racial equity for the American History and Civics Education program. The emphasis on racial equity as an interagency emphasis of the administration is a strong, initial step towards increasing confidence and trust in public institutions, particularly among communities whose lived experiences, scholarship, and ability to participate within our democracy has been historically impeded.

As a national civics education organization that has served over 100,000 students across Oklahoma, Texas, California, New York, Rhode Island, Utah, Kentucky, and Massachusetts in the past ten years, we view this proposed rule as transcending the false choice between a resolute commitment to advancing racial equity and harboring robust confidence in America’s democratic experiment. Our experience attests to the importance of comprehensive, project-based civics education. Last year, we educated 21,400 students; 77% of those students expressed a motivation to be engaged in their communities, while 80% indicated a desire to vote in the future. Additionally, research indicates that project-based education can generate higher achievement scores in social studies than traditional modes of instruction.

In particular, we applaud the emphasis on an asset-based approach to creating identity-safe environments for students, the promotion of culturally responsive education, and the championing, as noted above, of racial equity as an appropriate aim to incentivize through the disbursement of grants in the American History and Civics Education program. In our view, the foregoing points of emphasis are entirely consistent with a simultaneous appreciation for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the design of America’s political institutions and its founding, animating ideals.

Regarding areas of improvement, the proposed rule could be strengthened by a larger emphasis on student agency, including the development of civic skills like collaboration, consensus-building, youth participatory action research, and engagement in the public policy process; and on cultivating a democratic school culture, where educators and students co-create collaborative, non-punitive learning environments.

To effectively implement the foregoing recommendations, we encourage the Department of Education to prioritize public investment in holistic professional development for educators and teacher-to-teacher communities of practice in designing the priorities of the American History and Civics Education program. Additionally, in accordance with research on best practices of civics education, we urge the priorities to commend teacher discussion of current events, including contentious or controversial issues.

Amy Curran

Oklahoma Executive Director

Generation Citizen

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Amy Curran
Generation Citizen
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Oklahoma Executive Director for Generation Citizen, an Action Civics education nonprofit.