COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Teachers in Mid-Missouri's largest school district will evaluate the New York Times' 1619 Project, which is embroiled in controversy over critical race theory in schools.
At the same time, the board of another Mid-Missouri school district is hearing parent concerns about teaching related to race and history.
The Columbia Board of Education consented to an agreement on Monday night with the Pultizer Center for a grant that will pay teachers to develop a lesson plan using resources from The 1619 Project. No members of the school board commented on the approval, which was voted on as part of the board's consent agenda.
Under the grant, a team of educators will receive $5,000 to create lessons that explore key issues in race and other social justice issues. According to the terms of collaboration, the lessons will pull from the journalistic work The 1619 Project with goals of making deeper connections to pre-existing curriculum, developing and practicing media literacy and building empathy.
Teaching in public schools involving the 1619 Project -- which looks at how slavery affected the creation and history of the United States -- has become a rallying point in America's culture wars. Some conservatives have tied it to critical race theory -- a legal and social theory typically taught in graduate-level courses that looks at systemic racism in the United States.
Michelle Baumstark, chief communications officer for Columbia Public Schools, said critical race theory and the 1619 Project will not be part of the curriculum.
"Any changes in any curriculum in Columbia Public Schools requires a multi-year evaluation process followed by final approval by the Board of Education before implementation can take place," Baumstark said. "This is not being considered at this time."
Jerome Morris, a president endowment scholar with the University of Missouri - St. Louis, said it's important to make the distinction between the 1619 Project and critical race theory. Although they are commonly associated with each other, they are not the same thing, Morris said.
"[The 1619 Project] is a project that says we have to rethink the role of slavery in the founding of this country," Morris said. "And let me shift something very different. Critical Race Theory offers us a way of thinking about that framework."
Some states have banned the teaching of critical race theory and legislation has been proposed in Missouri to do just that.
The Jefferson City Board of Education heard from parents about the subject Monday night. About a dozen district parents aired complaints before the board and some spoke in support of teaching on race and history.
Some residents said they worry that critical race theory would be taught without a counterbalance, while others said they don't believe a counterbalance is necessary. District leaders said the Jefferson City School District curriculum is based on Missouri's state learning standards, which do not include critical race theory.