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Terrell's message received despite pushback

Tribune Staff • Mar 12, 2018 at 1:00 PM

Grand Haven schools have a diversity problem.

Granted, that diversity problem is the reason many people choose to live here in Grand Haven, where nearly 95 percent of the population is white.

However, our area schools are charged with educating our youngsters, and that goes beyond math, science, history, reading and writing.

A majority of the more than 400 seniors who will graduate from Grand Haven High School in a few short months will continue their education at colleges and universities across the country, where diversity is the rule, not the exception.

To help prepare those students for the diversity they’ll encounter — and to give them a taste of what people from other ethnicities and cultures look like, sound like and think like — GHAPS decided to bring in speaker Calvin Terrell.

The backlash from many across the district was swift and unbending. Comments flooded social media as people shared information on some of Terrell’s past speeches.

They started a Facebook group titled “Grand Haven Public schools Conservative concerned parents.” That group — with nearly 150 members — claimed that Terrell’s message is filled with “anti-American and extremely left wing propaganda.” They felt their kids are being “accused/judged or made to feel guilty for crimes of people long ago.”

The Tribune’s articles on Terrell’s visits have received dozens of comments, as well, many saying they were concerned that Terrell will push his “leftist agenda” on our children.

To assuage the concerns of the community, Terrell offered to host a Q&A session last Monday night, the evening before he was scheduled to meet with students at Lakeshore Middle School. We were encouraged when nearly 150 people attended the meeting. Doubtless, many were from the school district, but many more parents of GHAPS students attended and asked legitimate questions.

We applaud Terrell for holding the Q&A session, as well as those parents who attended it. From there, they were able to make intelligent decisions based on what they heard and choose for themselves whether or not their children should attend Terrell’s assembly.

Many other parents ignored the meeting, and kept their kids home from school to protect them from Terrell’s message. That close-minded behavior is exactly what Terrell’s message speaks out against.

GHAPS went to great lengths to bring in Terrell in an attempt to teach our children that there are people in our country who have had different experiences, learned different life lessons, possess different beliefs than what we see here in Grand Haven.

That doesn’t make them right or wrong. It makes them different, and different is OK.

Our children need to know this, and they also need to learn to think for themselves. They need to be able to attend an assembly, listen to what’s presented and make their own decisions on what they thought of the material. They need to take what they’ve heard back to their classrooms, where they can hold purposeful discussions with classmates and teachers.

This is how we learn — not by spewing hateful rhetoric over social media.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Matt DeYoung, Mark Brooky, Alex Doty, Josh VanDyke and Duncan MacLean. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

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