Editor's note: Bruce Atkinson's letter was sent simultaneously to the Post Bulletin and to Rochester School Board President Jean Marvin, who wrote this response.
Neither Education Minnesota nor the National Education Association determine what is taught in our schools. The curriculum used in Minnesota public schools comes from the Minnesota Department of Education standards which are available online. As I've said before, Critical Race Theory is not one of those standards.
Rochester Public Schools has no formal or financial relationship with Dr. Katie Pekel. She has a position with the University of Minnesota, and The School Leadership Institute that she directs is under the University's auspices.
Rochester Public Schools have been employing Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning strategies for several years with great results; teachers, parents and students have been really enthusiastic about those strategies having a positive effect on student engagement and success. The underlying goal behind this approach is for teachers to create a classroom environment where students feel the teacher knows and cares about them and where there is an understanding of and respect for every child. It doesn't tell teachers what to teach, but it offers a number of strategies about how to teach effectively and reach all learners. I'd be interested in hearing what your specific objection is to this approach.
SEL, social/emotional learning involves helping kids learn how to handle their emotions in a way that's positive rather than being destructive. When a student is overwhelmed with fear, anger, stress, etc., not much learning happens. We want kids to believe in themselves and not to give up when things get tough. Most teachers I know have been doing this for a really, really long time because they understand kids. Now there's a name for it.
Our curriculum does include instruction on the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. Students learn about these documents at the elementary and secondary level in both social studies and English classes as they study the events leading up to the Revolutionary War and the years that followed.
Jean Marvin, Rochester