Politics & Government

Wake educator’s advice about ‘culturally appropriate’ Thanksgiving raises eyebrows

How Thanksgiving almost didn’t happen in the South

Thanksgiving is a nationally recognized holiday celebrated each year in November, but for a period of time in American history, the South resisted the celebration.
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Thanksgiving is a nationally recognized holiday celebrated each year in November, but for a period of time in American history, the South resisted the celebration.

A Wake County educator’s advice on teaching about Thanksgiving and Native Americans in a “culturally appropriate” way is drawing praise — and some complaints — on social media.

Lauryn Mascareñaz, a director in the Wake County school system’s Office of Equity Affairs, tweeted Friday that teachers shouldn’t have their students engage in “cute” activities, such as having students make “Indian” feathers. She said teachers should instead tell students the “truth” about the nation’s relationship with Native Americans, including how Thanksgiving is viewed as a day of mourning by some groups.

“Teachers! Repeat after me: I will not have my students make ‘Indian’ feathers/clothes,” tweeted Mascareñaz, a former elementary school teacher. “I will not culturally appropriate an entire people for ‘cute’ activities.

“I will tell my students the truth about this country’s relationship with Indigenous people. #PinterestIsNotPedagogy

Mascareñaz’ tweet has been retweeted more than 1,000 times and received more than 3,500 likes as of Monday.

But A.P. Dillon, a Wake County parent and local conservative blogger, tweeted Saturday that the school district should “‘appropriate’ academic instruction and drop the social justice warrior virtue signaling.”

“But hey, our betters over at Equity Affairs are virtue signaling on Twitter about that teacher who might be having kids dress up as Pilgrims and Indians,” Dillon wrote in a blog post Sunday. “Spare us your finger-wagging, virtue signaling crap, Ms. Mascareñaz.”

Mascareñaz did not respond to email, voice message or direct message on Monday requesting comment. But she tweeted out a quote Monday night from activist Audre Lorde, along with the hashtag #Equity4Wake, about it being better to speak out than to be silent.

Mascareñaz was hired by Wake in the spring after the school district had expanded its Office of Equity Affairs following a slew of racially charged incidents involving schools and students. She had been a teaching and learning specialist at Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

While she no longer works for the center, Mascareñaz wrote an article for Teaching Tolerance’s fall issue about how schools can reduce the risk of undocumented students being deported.

Mascareñaz also tweeted Friday a Teaching Tolerance article about how to teach about Thanksgiving in a socially responsible way and a lesson plan about how some Native American groups mark Thanksgiving as a day of mourning.

Her other tweet has drawn praise from some parents and teachers.

“Love this,” Dan Jackson, a teacher at Apex Friendship High School, replied Sunday to Mascareñaz in a tweet. “Revisionist history begins with us. We can’t wait for the textbook Publishers to catch up. Kids will repeat what we model. Let’s model the truth.”

But conservative critics of Mascareñaz say it’s those kinds of views that are causing some families to not enroll their children in the school system.

“And people wonder why parents remove their kids from public schools, she is a loon,” Anthony J. Bruno, a retiree from Cary, tweeted Saturday.

Dillon tweeted that Wake is wasting resources by spending money on the Office of Equity Affairs, including paying Mascareñaz $85,000 a year.

“Parents need to wake up and realize that the #WCPSS School Board has chosen to sink over half a million dollars into Leftist Social

Thanksgiving is a nationally recognized holiday celebrated each year in November, but for a period of time in American history, the South resisted the celebration.

Justice indoctrination instead of supplies, teachers and actual academic subject,” Dillon

tweeted Saturday

. “They need to start complaining. They need to start protesting.”

But Brent Woodcox, a Republican staffer at the General Assembly, called for understanding Mascareñaz’ perspective.

“One of the things conservatives have to do on cultural issues like this in Wake County is grow up, listen before speaking and try to understand someone else’s perspective,” Woodcox tweeted Sunday. “Doesn’t mean you have to agree but show grace and learn something.

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui
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