Another example of Critical Race Theory being promoted in public school education was brought to light after New York City parents voiced their concerns over a children’s book that described racism as a way for “white people” to “get more power.”
In 2021, NYC’s then-Mayor Bill de Blasio had incorporated the concept of Universal Mosaic Curriculum into the Department of Education’s (DOE) fiscal year 2022 budget. By way of the DOE’s suggested reading list promoted on the website TeachingBooks, schools within the five boroughs are encouraged to include “Our Skin” in their classrooms.
“Racism is also the things people do and the unfair rules they make about race so that white people get more power, and are treated better, than everybody else…” co-writers Megan Madison and Jessica Ralli write in the illustrated book aimed at kindergartners. “It’s all around us, even if we don’t always notice it.”
Madison, a trainer with the Center for Racial Justice in Education, and Ralli, a coordinator at the Brooklyn Public Library, further write, “A long time ago, way before you were born, a group of white people made up an idea called race. They sorted people by skin color and said that white people were better, smarter, prettier, and that they deserve more than everybody else.”
The nonprofit Madison works for, as reported by The New York Post, is contracted through the DOE to “empower educators to dismantle patterns of racism and injustice.”
However, Brooklyn parent leader Vito LaBella argued, “That page alone in my mind is just preaching hate,” and later added of a shipment of the books being delivered to a school within his district, “There were no instructions or curriculum guide with them.”
The Universal Mosaic Curriculum is described as a “rigorous, inclusive, and affirming curriculum” that reflects the “variety of histories, languages and experiences that make up the City.”
Included with the official announcement for the investment, Natasha Capers, director of the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice, was quoted as saying, “This unprecedented investment in Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Education (CRSE) aligned Universal Mosaic Curriculum, is particularly historic because it signifies NYC taking a stand against racism and other forms of oppression during a time when conservative, racist forces across the country are trying to write people of color out of this nation’s story.”
The DOE claims the book is “not part of our prescribed curriculum,” and that schools were free to choose to buy the book, another way of saying that they were not officially endorsing it though they were integral in every step to get it into the classroom.
When a Manhattan dad found a copy in his kindergartener’s school, he told the Post, “The book itself is fine and a lot of what is said in the book is productive and I think very helpful in a discussion of race. However, there’s just an excerpt from it that I think is so damaging that it should disqualify the whole book.”
“Racism should be talked about, but it should be talked about correctly,” he went on. “I think that telling 5- and 6-year-olds that white people are all responsible for all racism is not helpful. It’s going to be very traumatic for many 5- and 6-year-olds who are going to blame themselves and blame their parents.”
In their own defense of the content, the activist writers stated, “We know that the harmful ideologies that these books push back against are dominant and powerful in our society…But we’re not scared. We are firmly grounded in our professional and ethical responsibilities.”
As for the DOE, a spokeswoman told the Post, “Our public schools do not shy away from books that teach our students history and can be used to deepen their understanding of the world around them. We value and honor our students’ perspectives and identities, and we provide opportunities for family voices to be heard on topics including school book lists.”
“Our Skin” had previously drawn criticism in a New Jersey school during the fall of 2021 where even Westfield, NJ Schools Superintendent Raymond González conceded slightly after pushback, “It should not be placed in the general classroom library. Rather, this book is best to use as an interactive read aloud where educated professionals can skillfully present this information.”
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