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My first grade daughters came home last night with a hand out from their teacher discussing the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King. They told me it was absolutely necessary to study the handout for class discussions and tests.

Perhaps my thoughts on this may spark some discussion but, I was surprised by the content of their homework. I do not object introducing my daughters to Dr. King and his contribution to the civil rights movement. However, the handout the girls received emphasized concepts of prejudice, discrimination and racial violence.

We’ve made an effort to foster a color blind home environment. I am aware some may find this approach unrealistic and unsustainable. But, we do this because our aim is to teach our children to not categorize others on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity. Soon enough reality will expose the racial biases that continue to exist, and that may affect them at some point in their lives.

For these reasons, I found it really difficult to explain why Dr. King died and the notion of hate. Their handout discussed Dr. King’s murder and the idea that some people hate others because of the color of their skin.

I think their school is right to introduce our 6 year olds the important contributions of historical figures such as Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi. However, I don’t think my children should have seen a video that included a recreation of Dr. King’s death or be tested on the meaning of prejudice and discrimination.

So, after reviewing their MLK fact sheet, one of my daughters quietly asked if there were white men that hated their “brown” father. I tucked her in bed and reassured her Dr. King’s hard work paved the way for people to peacefully coexist despite their differences.

Perhaps I’ve sheltered my children. Certainly, this week’s handout hastened a conversation we were not prepared to have. For my family, it feels as though our school, in a small but measurable way, took away a fraction of their innocence.

January 12, 2010