By Aveion Cason and Tori Franklin
Preparation is a central part of success in just about every endeavor in life.
In athletics, much of the preparation takes place in the training room, on the practice field, and while reviewing video. These spaces allow athletes to gauge progress, prepare for specific opponents, and refine our skills. Simply put, our performance would suffer if these sessions were scratched.
Unfortunately, that hypothetical could become a reality – with much higher stakes – for Michigan’s schoolchildren. We must ensure it doesn’t.
We are at an educational crossroads in Michigan – those of us who have the responsibility of voting in November to elect local School Board members and other policy-makers, and those who already hold power of education decisions in the state legislature.
As voters in Michigan, we must ask questions of and then vote for candidates for local School Board seats and other policy-making offices. Will the candidates ensure the excellent preparation our students need for success in education, career and life in an increasingly interconnected and diverse world? Or will the candidates ban books, eliminate discussion of truthful history and current events, and otherwise prevent educators from helping guide students’ learning, to build a complete and accurate understanding of themselves, their community, their state, their nation, and the world around them?
For our state legislators: will they advance education initiatives that broaden our students’ knowledge about their history and culture, as well as that of others who come from diverse backgrounds? For example, there are bills pending that would enhance students’ understanding of African-American and Native American history, Asian American and Pacific Islander history, Latin American, Hispanic American, and Caribbean American history, and Arab-American history. Unfortunately, our state legislators could instead decide to limit what is taught in schools and prevent students from learning the true history and current realities of our country, and take away the ability for students to properly prepare for the world they will inherit.
Martin Luther King Jr. and Ruby Bridges are important historical figures that helped shape our society. By learning the stories of these figures, and by experiencing the works of celebrated Black authors like Toni Morrison in our schools, students can either see themselves or be introduced to a broader range of diverse perspectives and can better understand the contributions and struggles of different people and communities.
Children will seek out information one way or another – often online, where the environment can be harmful and deceptive. Creating classrooms where every student can feel accepted and valued should be a priority. It’s in these spaces that children can discover many different ideas, cultures and perspectives, in an environment that’s caring and safe.
Giving children an honest education, including a true accounting of the uncomfortable moments of our nation’s past, allows them to see the progress we’ve made and better prepares them to build and thrive in our interconnected and diverse world, and construct a better future for us all.
Instead of restricting, censoring or banning materials that address truths, we should provide kids with what they need to be successful and cultivate their life skills. Restrictions on certain conversations or lessons only limit students’ opportunities to achieve a true understanding of our nation’s history and the many cultures that contributed to its development. We must ensure that candidates for our local School Boards and other elected offices in Michigan support full, honest education to well prepare our children for what awaits them.
It’d be unthinkable to step onto an NFL field or to enter a World Championship race without proper training and practice. It’d be tragic to deny our children needed preparation for education and for life – that preparation yields a successful future for our children, and enables them to lead our nation to a stronger future.
Let’s be real with our children and give them the honest education they deserve. Our collective futures depend on it.
Aveion Cason is a former Detroit Lions running back, Players Coalition advocate and a supporter of youth justice.
Tori Franklin is a USA Track & Field Olympian, Michigan State alum, and Players Coalition advocate. She empowers others as a public speaker, focusing on mental health, self-love and confidence .