In this June 10, 2021, file photo, Ben Frazier, the founder of the Northside Coalition of Jacksonville chants "Allow teachers to teach the truth" at the end of his public comments opposing the state of Florida's plans to ban the teaching of critical race theory in public schools during the Department of Education in Jacksonville, Fla. Credit: Bob Self / The Florida Times-Union via AP, File

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In the years it took me to earn a master’s degree in history and throughout a 30-year teaching career teaching high school American history I never heard of Critical Race Theory. I doubt whether most of my fellow teachers ever heard of it until recently.

Our society relies on the combined efforts of parents, teachers, and for many, our religious leaders, to instill the values we want our children to share, values that include truth, honesty and respect for others. Attempts to deny access to information such as banning books constitute an attack on free speech. We learn through debate and dialogue only if we keep an open mind, avoiding prejudice and inflexibility.

Parents should be involved in what is taught in our schools. Parent-teacher conferences are one method of doing so. School board members are freely elected, any area citizen can be a candidate. Some of what is taught in our classrooms is mandated by the state, standards to assure that all schools cover essential topics.

In my classes, slavery was discussed as a violation of human rights. Slavery did not begin with people from Africa brought to the Americas by Europeans. Slaves were a staple throughout history. In Egypt, Hebrews were forced to labor for generations. Slave labor powered vessels until the 19th century. There is no justification for enslaving a fellow human. Those involved in the practice were wrong. They violated basic beliefs of most major religions.

Teaching about such subjects in no way should imply guilt among those of us who played no role in such behavior. Learning about how our nation was willing to suffer a Civil War to end slavery should make us all proud to be Americans. The continuing battle for civil rights is proof that we are truly a nation seeking liberty and justice for all.

Ron Jarvella