President Trump speaks during a campaign event at Fayetteville Regional Airport last week in Fayetteville, N.C. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The Sept. 18 front-page article “Trump attacks public schools” unveiled the president’s latest racist ploy: a disgraceful assault on public schools that are rapidly falling behind those in the rest of the world.

Teaching the next generation about our country’s successes and shameful shortcomings is vital if we’re ever to learn from our past and better understand our current problems. We cannot allow mere discomfort in facing these hard truths to dictate an alternate reality of our American legacy.

Our human rights education program, Speak Truth to Power, introduces students to human rights defenders unafraid to speak up and act out against injustice, with the aim of inspiring them to work to right the wrongs they see. The lessons come as a recent Southern Poverty Law Center poll found 70 percent of Americans support anti-racism education policies.

Whitewashing history in the name of “patriotic education” to play down the central role of slavery is not only dishonest but also dangerous, hindering real progress while further inciting racial divisions in a pivotal election year.

Leave it to the experts, Mr. President.

Kerry Kennedy, Hyannis Port, Mass.

The writer is president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, a nonprofit advocacy organization.

President Trump’s statement that he will create a national commission to push more “pro-American” history exemplifies a trend to use U.S. history instruction in public schools to further inflame polarization. Education can be a driver of conflict that fuels grievances, xenophobia and other misinformation, or education can contribute to peacebuilding. In the United States, whole periods of history are covered quickly. Other parts, including those addressing the experiences and achievements of women, people of color and native Americans, are ignored or not accurate.

We need an innovative rethinking of the delivery of history curriculums to convey new narratives of the past and positively influence citizens’ national identity. The Alliance for Peacebuilding and its partners are working on a pilot project with educators in states to align the U.S. history curriculum with a peacebuilding approach. We can build peace in the one place nearly all Americans have in common as they approach adulthood — at least one year of instruction in U.S. history.

This revised curriculum will empower educators and students to have difficult and honest conversations about our past and to develop an inclusive narrative that helps heal our country instead of dividing us further.

Liz Hume, Washington

The writer is vice president of the Alliance for Peacebuilding.

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