Matt Hawn works at his home Nov. 12, 2021, in Kingsport, Tennessee. Hawn was fired from Sullivan Central High School after school officials said he used materials with offensive language and failed to provide a conservative viewpoint during discussions of white privilege in his contemporary issues class, which has since been eliminated. Credit: Wade Payne / AP

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The raison d’etre of education is to produce educated, critical thinkers; critical thinking and intellectual inquiry are the foundation of all learning. It allows us to question assumptions, assimilate information and view subjects from differing perspectives to improve our understanding of complex issues. Critical thinking gives us a deeper understanding of history, literature, language, the arts, and major social and cultural change.

As a retired educator, let me give an example. A study of America’s westward expansion would include Manifest Destiny, the railroad system, the destruction of Indigenous culture, the Gold Rush or expansions effect on the institution of slavery, the Civil War and its aftermath.

By critically examining different perspectives, we develop a nuanced understanding of issues, which is closer to the truth than what we get from Hollywood, popular culture, or social media.

Critical race theory is the study of race in America by viewing it in the framework that can be used to theorize, examine and challenge the ways racism implicitly and explicitly affects our social discourse, practices and structures.

It is not designed to make white people out to be racists or undermine democratic institutions. Indeed, democracy is always strengthened by truth and truth is formed through critical inquiry.

Propaganda and misinformation are used to spread fear and resentment. Please think critically about this effort to move our country away from a past lacking in balance and perspective. America will be better for it.

History is always nuanced, and in nuance truth resides.

Tony Hamlin