MILLBURN, NJ - This past Tuesday, the Millburn Board of Education brought in Dr. Khyati Joshi to educate the community on race, immigration, and citizenship.
Joshi is a professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University and founder of the Institute for Teaching Diversity and Social Justice. This level of knowledge was clear in the thoroughness of the presentation she gave in merely an hour.
The presentation began with Joshi establishing her goal: to shed light on history. Systematic racism has existed since the nation’s founding, sanctioned by Congress and the Supreme Court, yet it is often invisible. Although once made visible, one can never forget. Learning about the country’s past provides a critical understanding of the history being made now, such as with the attempted Muslim Ban last year.
Drawing on her own experience growing up in Savannah, GA with two immigrant parents, Joshi examined where our stereotypes come from. They can be traced back to restrictive immigration policies that only let certain types of immigrants into the country.
So, one of the key reasons the stereotype about Asians all being smart doctors or engineers exists is because those were the Asians that were allowed to immigrate here.
That is just one example of how Joshi peeled back the curtain on our image of America as a haven for immigrants. Her bottom line was that xenophobia is not new and that “we all deserve the truth.”
Joshi stressed the importance that students parents also contend with the nation’s past to facilitate conversation and tolerance at home. She believes students truly want to know the nation’s real history. Sugarcoating doesn’t service anyone.
The environment was Socratic in nature, with Joshi both lecturing using a powerpoint and also posing questions to her audience to spur further analysis.
Before beginning the Q&A portion of the event, Joshi posed two questions to the audience, “how do you know what you don’t know?” and “how are you feeling right now?” While neither was directly answered, they were designed to help the audience digest the information presented to them.
The subsequent Q&A session became a discussion of current events and the responsibility each citizen has to stay informed. Many voiced their shock at not being taught about certain racist laws in their own educations.
Joshi was hired as a consultant to educate district teachers on America’s true past with race, immigration, and citizenship, in order to modernize the history curriculum. Dr. Christine Burton, Millburn Schools Superintendent, said that it’s not enough for the district to simply state commitment to educating students of the future. It’s important to her that Millburn “walks the walk.”
The impact of Joshi’s work is already evident in history classes throughout the district. Students in classes throughout the district are contending with the nation’s past with the help of their teachers.
When explaining the importance of learning history, Joshi said, “Thus far, most of the mainstream U.S. history that’s taught in American public schools and other schools is the one where America is great. It’s important to learn the different perspectives.”
Joshi will give part two of this presentation, titled “Understanding and Talking About Social Justice with Your Children,” on April 23, 2020, and all members of the community are encouraged to attend.