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In Schools, Honest Talk about Racism Can Reduce Discrimination

New laws make it harder for teachers to discuss racism and inequality, but psychological evidence shows these conversations dispel causes of bias and distress

“Where are the Native Americans now?” asked fifth grade students in an Iowa City classroom last year. There are many ways their teacher, Melanie Hester, might have answered. She could have pointed out that today Native Americans live in cities and towns across the U.S. About 20 percent live on reservations, and Hester could have used that to open a discussion of the U.S. government’s forcible movement and isolation of tribes. Hester might have also discussed how European and American settlers brutally killed many Native Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries.

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