Teachers’ union ad accuses politicians of trying to ‘whitewash’ history; critics say the ad uses race to divide

(The Center Square) – The Washington Education Association (WEA) has been advertising a petition to support “honesty in education” by giving students “honest, updated lessons that reckon with our past.” Opponents charge that isn’t what the union is actually interested in, at all.

Social media users may see WEA’s advertisements to urge citizens to sign the pledge for honesty in education. The ads feature side-by-side comparisons of iconic photos of Martin Luther King Jr. during his “I have a dream” speech in Washington D.C. and of Ruby Bridges being escorted out of school by U.S. Marshals when she became the first African American to desegregate an all-white elementary school.

On the left hand side of the advertisement, King and Bridges are in the photos with the column titled “True History.” On the right hand side, King and Bridges are removed from the same photos with the column titled “Whitewashed History.”

The petition calls for the state’s “elected officials to protect students’ access to accurate and comprehensive history and social studies lessons and to critical thinking skills that help them understand our collective challenges so they can build a brighter future.”

Liv Finne, the director for the Center for Education at the Washington Policy Center, questions the need for this petition and says WEA is lying about a movement to whitewash history courses.

Finne said King’s speech was a fact and stories from the 1960’s civil rights movement, like Bridges’ story, did of course happen.

“Martin Luther King did in fact say: ‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”’ she said.

Finne added, “No one is trying to whitewash history courses. History classes will continue to teach and inspire school children with the courageous examples of MLK and Ruby Bridges.”

Her own dream was that “History classes may even use this WEA example as an illustration of how powerful unions will use race to divide our communities to increase their own power.”

The background here is an ongoing national fight over what is called “critical race theory,” which some Washington school districts have sought to limit or prohibit in the classroom.

“Critical race theorists hold that racism is inherent in the law and legal institutions of the United States,” explains Britannica.com.

The State of Washington has a law in place that states, “School districts are encouraged to prepare and conduct a program at least once a year to commemorate the history of civil rights in our nation.”

That includes providing an opportunity for students to learn about the personalities and convictions of significant people of the civil rights movement and the “importance of the fundamental principle and promise of equality under our nation’s Constitution.”

The legislature encouraged schools to explain that the civil rights movement did not begin or end with the corresponding events of the 1950s and 1960s.

“Since our nation’s founding, ordinary citizens have struggled to fulfill America’s promise of equality under the law,” the law states.

WEA did not respond to a request for comment.