July 28, 2021

Stressing Importance of Culturally Responsible Education in Schools

To the Editor:

History and literature in our schools are meant to be open conversations where we challenge ideas, question things, and ultimately broaden our perspectives. This is how we learn. In all districts, but especially in diverse districts such as the West Windsor-Plainsboro and Princeton districts, it is important that these critical parts of the learning infrastructure be upheld by ensuring that culturally responsible education is maintained and furthered. This means that the inclusion of diverse voices in our history and literature is a constant process and our teachers are constantly encouraged to seek out perspectives that are different but that are representative of the students.

For instance, in my Language Arts Honors class we were able to read books and short pieces by a  variety of authors such as Jhumpa Lahiri, James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Bharati Mukherjee, Sherman Alexei, Anna Quindlen, and Eric Liu. These pieces of literature diverge from the classic literature, and they give us a whole new perspective. I was able to see how the American experience is a complex, multi-layered experience, where people struggle to be accepted, to make a life, to experience romance, to feel free, or who embrace opportunities, who work to be socially mobile. I got to feel seen in this kind of literature. I was represented, and so were others.

This representation made for a very engaging and welcoming class environment. And this is not a novelty. Advocates of culturally responsive education say “Culturally responsive, diverse materials tell a richer, more accurate story that helps all students feel seen and included in their learning” (edutopia.org/article/through-ethnic-studies-schools-push-include-marginalized-perspectives). This clearly shows how necessary it is to ensure there is diversity in what we read and engage with, for it helps us to better learn. 

Of course there are many issues that will not be solved through culturally responsive education alone, however it is super important for West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South, and other high schools in the area, to honor promises of diversity, equity and inclusion made this past year, and ensure that our curriculum is inclusive and culturally responsible. Only then do we truly learn.   

Thara Ellsworth
Glenview Drive

The writer is a student at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South.