Parents criticize Ruby Bridges book in debate over CRT, Tenn. curriculum

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Some Tennessee parents oppose “Ruby Bridges Goes to School,” which highlights the first Black child to integrate into a New Orleans school

As the debate around critical race theory continues, a group of parents in Tennessee are expressing their disapproval over various teaching tools, including a Ruby Bridges book.

The Tennessean shared in June that anti-critical race theory community members around the Williamson County School district spoke out against the “Wit & Wisdom” curriculum, which was created by a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit called Great Minds. The curriculum “uses research-based instructional methods that are proven to work for all learners, including but not limited to striving readers, students with dyslexia and English language learners,” according to Great Minds.

The parents criticized the curriculum, critical race theory and the use of certain books within schools, including “Ruby Bridges Goes to School,” “Separate is Never Equal,” and “George vs. George,” the Tennessean reported.

Ruby Bridges
Ruby Bridges Goes to School Book Cover (Credit: Scholastic / Ruby Bridges’ Author page on Amazon)

During a Williamson County Commission’s education committee in May, a group from the local chapter of Moms for Liberty expressed their opposition. While the commission “oversees and approves” the school budget, they are not in a position to make decisions on specific budget items’ contents, according to the Tennessean.

Robin Steenman leads the Williamson County Moms for Liberty chapter and shared her perspective with the commissioners, the Tennessean reported.

“I realize that this isn’t usually in your lane, but I just wanted you to be aware,” Steenman said to the commissioners, per the Tennessean.

Steenman reportedly raised criticism, specifically about the book “Ruby Bridges Goes to School.”

classroom desks
(Photo: Adobe Stock)

The book covers the true story of Ruby Bridges, who became the first Black child to integrate into a previously segregated all-white elementary school in New Orleans. As mentioned in a description of the book, Bridges “walked through an angry crowd and into a school, changing history.”

Bridges was just six years old when she made history in 1960.

Ruby Bridges
Ruby Bridges speaks onstage at Glamour’s 2017 Women of The Year Awards at Kings Theatre on November 13, 2017 in Brooklyn, New York. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Glamour)

“This is the true story of an extraordinary little girl who became the first Black person to attend an all-white elementary school in New Orleans,” a description of the book reads. “With simple text and historical photographs, this easy reader explores an amazing moment in history and celebrates the courage of a young girl who stayed strong in the face of racism.”

The Tennessean reports that Steenman expressed that a “large crowd of angry white people who didn’t want Black children in a white school” was harsh and she also mentioned that the book didn’t offer “redemption” at the end of the story. Additionally, Steenman is reportedly against educators using words like “injustice,” “unequal,” “inequality,” “protest,” “marching” and “segregation” in their grammar lessons.

Meanwhile, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching, Learning and Assessment Dave Allen said the curriculum is working, the Tennessean reports.

“Our teachers are reporting to us that our students are reading like they’ve never read before,” Allen stated during the education committee meeting in May. “I’ve received a flood of emails recently that said, ‘Don’t do anything with the curriculum. My kid’s loving it.'”

Ruby Bridges Goes to School,” which was written by Bridges herself, is considered a “Teacher’s Pick” on Amazon and accumulated an average of nearly 5 stars in ratings.

“Thanks to feedback from hundreds of teachers, we have a curated list of incredible books for readers K-8th grade to inspire a lifelong love of reading,” Teacher’s Picks shared on Amazon. “Young readers can learn from home with Teacher’s Picks that represent diverse voices, new authors, kid favorite series, and early reading titles that are sure to become instant favorites.”

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