Photograph: Brennan Linsley/AP
Presented by Megan Reynolds
Though I signed the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax’s (UUCF) Membership Book in 2018, I had already thrown myself into the Religious Exploration Program the prior year. As a former elementary school teacher and librarian and mother of two young children, UUCF’s active Religious Education program attracted my attention immediately. I quickly found my way onto the Religious Exploration Committee (REC) where I served from 2019 until this past June.
Shortly after joining the REC, I was thrilled to learn that UUCF wanted to develop a curriculum that would view Virginia history through an anti-oppressive and anti-racist lens. I quickly volunteered to build on a curriculum originally designed by Lauren Grimes. In collaboration with Diana Tycer, the head of Religious Exploration at UUCF, we created lessons that complemented the curriculum that fourth graders were learning in Fairfax Public Schools. Given my teaching background, I was very familiar with how history is (or isn’t) taught in many classrooms. In reality, it is up to individual educators to decide whether to complicate the traditional narrative with more diverse perspectives and unpleasant details—a decision which may open them up to criticism and complaints from unhappy parents who prefer a more sanitized version of history. As parent and educator, I was eager to offer a more complete and complex view of history to young learners.
At this point, the curriculum has seen several iterations. We now feel it is most effective to share with sixth grade students, as the content is not easy and the details are often grim. Most importantly for this audience, UUCF has pledged to make this curriculum available to anybody who may find it useful—whether to teach it in its entirety or a specific lesson. As racism continues to infect our country and become more apparent by the day, children need to understand the past they are inheriting if they hope to improve it in the future.