Pastor Mark Vance shared his thoughts on Monday night with the Ames school board. He said that he is in deep agreement when it comes to the need for meaningful dialogue on race and justice, but he was “shocked” after reading through the guiding principles of what is in store for kids in the district during the Black Lives Matter Week of Action that will take place Feb. 1-5.
Vance is concerned that the use of Black Lives Matter at School as a curriculum will dilute the purpose and focus of Black History Month. He said the material goes far beyond racial conversation into matters of human sexuality, morality and the nature of the family.
“As such, I fear it’ll distract from meaningful and needed conversations around racial equality and justice,” he said.
Vance also highlighted the fact that, while the district is saying Black Lives Matter Week of Action at school is not connected with the organization Black Lives Matter, it shares both the name and common ideas with the social movement of BLM.
Vance said he’s concerned whenever an issue as complicated as racial justice is presented as if there’s only one monolithic viewpoint. And, he added, classroom discussion in a public school needs to avoid the explicit promotion of a particular political or ideological viewpoint.
He is also concerned because the teaching doesn’t seem likely to keep in mind the diversity of all Ames students. He said teaching should accommodate diverse moral and religious convictions that are held within the community.
“These materials simply won’t meaningfully achieve that goal,” he said.
Vance said he is discouraged not at the need to have the dialogue, but the fact that in a provoking, politically charged environment, this was the approach taken instead of working to build from common ground.
“Simply holding a different perspective on how to address racial inequality should not mean one is labeled as a racist, homophobic or bigot,” he said. “Disagreement doesn’t mean we have to be disagreeable.”