Rhode Island Democrats said "NO"

by Rep. Patricia Morgan


Do you think students deserve to learn about the histories and heritage of every nationality from across the world that has come to Rhode Island to make it their home? Well, Democrat politicians don’t. And that is bad for our children’s understanding of the world and for our country’s future.


Days before Memorial Day, the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed a bill that would make Rhode Island the first state to mandate the teaching of African Heritage History in grades K-12.


The good news is that African history is already being taught. In fact, books and lesson plans in classrooms across the state seize every opportunity to teach about the contributions of black Americans to the United States.


The bad news is that other nationalities that have come to Rhode Island and their rich impacts on our history are largely ignored. Our children’s understanding appears to be restricted to politically constrained silos. Hoping this was an oversight, I tried to add teaching of the histories of all the many people that make up our great state to state curricula, but the Democrats said a resounding NO.


I am not comparing the evil and immorality of slavery to the hardships that others have faced. This crime against Africans should be taught. It is an important part of our past and present. But a nation that has prided itself on welcoming people from across the world and bringing them together in a ‘melting pot’ to forge a united, strong and vibrant culture should also be teaching and learning about the reasons so many others have come. It will undoubtedly engender a rich appreciation for our country and our American culture that is unique among the nations of the world.


As a former public-school teacher, I know the importance of teaching comprehensive civics to our children. Contrasting our foundational principles with those in other countries, understanding how capitalism, freedom of religion, limited government and democracy have delivered safety and prosperity to generations of immigrants is critical to protecting those values for the future. America is the foremost country in the world to possess those principles. It’s important for our children to appreciate how lucky they are.


Unfortunately, Democrat politicians want to focus on only one segment of our population. That’s troubling and disturbing. There is no good reason to ignore and dismiss the heritage of any Rhode Islander. They have come for different reasons: fleeing Soviet oppression, the Cultural Revolution, man-made and natural famines, pogroms and genocide, natural disasters and war. America has been an oasis for generations of oppressed people. That is the genius, the wonder and the exceptionalism of our country. To appreciate that gift is to create in each of us pride and the desire to protect and defend it. I introduced an amendment that would do just that: mandate that the histories of every nationality be taught in our schools. I asked Democrat politicians to allow our children to learn about the hardships and contributions of every person who has come to our state. The question to them was: Are all nationalities and ethnicities important? They answered NO.


Who would have predicted that advocating for a comprehensive, all-nationalities heritage education would be so controversial that House Democrats would use a deceptive parliamentary procedure to silence any debate? They shut down my amendment in favor of pandering to one population and instead endorsed a limited, inequitable teaching of history.


Only one Democrat Representative was brave enough to second my amendment so I could speak. Deputy Speaker Charlene Lima believes in the 1st Amendment, in the right to speak and for others to hear. Every other Representative sat on their hands and closed their ears and minds.


Black Lives Matter is prominently incorporated into the bill that was passed. I seized the opportunity to question why a partisan, political organization that is anti-Semitic and demands defunding the police is being enshrined in state law. Even though Black Lives Matter is written into the bill, Democrats charged my comments were not germane and the parliamentarian backed them up. It is disconcerting that Democrat politicians are so focused on imposing a biased, one-sided education on students. Our children deserve better.


This is the list of nationalities I incorporated in my amendment. They came for many different reasons. They came because America is a beacon of freedom and prosperity, and each has a story that is important to learn and appreciate. On this Memorial Day, let’s teach our kids about everyone’s sacrifice and contributions, not just the sacrifices of one group over another. Let’s teach about why so many nationalities call themselves Americans and are willing to fight and die for our exceptional, welcoming and great nation.


Portuguese Americans 

Cape Verdean Americans 

Italian Americans 

Irish Americans 

French Americans 

English Americans 

Hispanic and Latino Americans 

Dominican, Haitian, Puerto Rican, Jamaican and all Caribbean Americans 

Guatemalan, Nicaraguan, Costa Rican and all Central America Americans 

Colombian, Bolivian, Venezuelan, Ecuadorian, and all South American Americans 

Narragansett, Wampanoag, Nipmuc, Pequot and all Native Americans

Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese and all Asian Americans 

Iranian, Syrian and all Arab and Middle East Americans

Greek American

Indian Americans

Filipino, and all Pacific Islander/Native Hawaiian Americans

Liberian Americans 

French-Canadian Americans 

Laotian. Vietnamese, Hmong and all South East Asian Americans 

German Americans

Armenian Americans

Swedish, Norwegian and Northern European Americans

Polish, Czech, Ukraine, Serbian and all Eastern Americans

Jewish Americans

Russian Americans

Pakistani Americans

Swiss Americans



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