Oskaloosa Parent Group Seeks to Limit Teaching About MLK, Ruby Bridges

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Some Oskaloosa parents are building an opposition movement to the school district’s new curriculum proposal in part because they think it includes critical race theory—a subject not taught in any Iowa school and banned last year—and other items they deem inappropriate.

One of the Oskaloosa parents, who opposes the Wit & Wisdom curriculum being considered, emailed people which sections she doesn’t think are appropriate. A copy of her email was shared with Starting Line. Her list included the Civil Rights Hero section for second-grade students that features materials like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have A Dream speech, and Ruby Bridges, the first student to desegregate a public school in the south in 1960.

According to the Wit & Wisdom second-grade module, the students would read the following picture books about the Civil Rights Movement:

  •  “Martin Luther King, Jr. and the March on Washington” by Frances E. Ruffin and Stephen Marchesi
  • “I Have a Dream, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” by Kadir Nelson
  • “Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story” by Ruby Bridges
  • “The Story of Ruby Bridges”  by Robert Coles and George Ford
  • “Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation” by Duncan Tonatiuh.

The parent’s argument is that the Civil Rights theme is not appropriate for second-grade children, who, on average, are 7-8 years old in America. Ruby Bridges was 6 years old when she had to be escorted by federal marshals to attend William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans.

In another email, a parent argued that the curriculum amounts to “child abuse” by exposing students to materials that contain various subjects they find objectionable for that age.

Members of the group are urging others to do their research by sharing a YouTube video of members of Moms for Libertya Florida-based right-wing nonprofit “dedicated to fighting for the survival of America”—attacking the Wit & Wisdom curriculum at various school board meetings by reading passages of books they don’t like with little to no additional context.

The parents are urging others to ask the school board to vote “no” at the Tuesday, Feb. 8, school board meeting to object to the implementation of the Wit & Wisdom curriculum at Oskaloosa Elementary School.

Wit & Wisdom—which specifically notes on its website it does not teach the non-existent threat of critical race theory and is designed to meet each states’ respective standards—is designed to help students develop a deeper connection to learning materials and is aligned with Iowa Core Standards.

Chad Colby, a spokesperson for Greater Minds, the company behind Wit & Wisdom, offered some additional information about the curriculum program.

Wit & Wisdom is a K-8 curriculum building knowledge, skills and character that features much-beloved, award-winning books from both contemporary and established authors, many of which parents will remember from their own childhoods,” he said. “The books, which introduce kids to facts about US history, the arts and sciences, and values including strength, compassion and resilience, are chosen to match different ages and grade levels.

“At a time when U.S. elementary reading scores need improvement and reading for fun is less common among kids, these time-tested and commonly used materials instill a love of the written word, build general knowledge, and prepare young learners for future schooling and careers.”

The Oskaloosa Elementary School Literacy Committee, made up of teachers and the district’s director of curriculum and instruction, approved Wit & Wisdom when it met in January. The district reviews and approves new learning materials every seven years and the process rotates by building level.

The literacy committee will meet again Tuesday, Feb. 1, and provide direct feedback to parents, and parents have ample opportunity to see the materials ahead of time.

Everything that will be taught in the curriculum has been made available online by the district. Members of the public can also physically view the content from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. starting today (Monday, Jan. 31) through Feb. 5 at the George Daily Community Auditorium.

The school board will vote on the material Tuesday, Feb. 8.

UPDATE (Jan. 31, 2022, 1:32 p.m.) A quote from a Wit & Wisdom spokesperson that provides additional context to the curriculum was added to the story.


by Ty Rushing

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