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Innovator Don Dumas - California Educator

by Sherry Posnick-Goodwin

“We are always telling our students to do what’s right and be truthful,” Don Dumas says. “We must do the same when teaching about America’s past, so students can better understand the present.” Photo by Howard Dumas

Don Dumas was teaching students about racism long before there was a Black Lives Matter movement and unprecedented nationwide protests demanding social justice. For the past decade, he has helped students explore how racism is woven throughout America’s entire history — and how painful events of the past continue to shape our world.

Teaching through a social justice lens made Dumas one of five 2019-20 San Diego County Teachers of the Year. Sweetwater Education Association President Julie Walker describes the SEA member as a “teacher leader” who encourages colleagues to go beyond the textbook.

“I want students to know they can make things happen, like other people have done throughout history. That’s why I teach the way I do.”

“Textbooks are not designed to tell us the truth about what happened in the past,” says Dumas, a teacher at Bonita Vista High School in Chula Vista. “Textbooks are designed to make us feel nostalgia for an American past that hasn’t existed for everyone, although it may have existed for some.”

Books such as The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist and Race and Manifest Destiny by Reginald Horsman are used in his classes to “fill in the gaps” in state-adopted textbooks. Students learn, for example...(read more at California Teachers Association)

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