Wednesday, August 12, 2020
US flag

Do rainbow signs at Yorktown promote equality?

A group of teachers at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Virginia, posted rainbow-colored signs around the school that they say promote diversity, fact-based science, women’s rights, and justice, but others say the signs don’t belong in a school because they’re political in nature.


(FOX-5, Washington DC)

Fox-5 in Washington reports that some people who oppose the signs have said that by promoting only one viewpoint or side on several important issues, the signs don’t promote diversity and equality but the exact opposite.

Messages on one sign:

Patriots know:
Facts are not political
Diversity strengthens us
Science is real
Women’s rights are human rights
Justice is for all
We’re all immigrants
Kindness is everything
We are Yorktown

One teacher answered an inquiry from the news station with a letter showing how all the statements on the sign were supported by the mission statement of the school district where Yorktown High School is located.

“I have read through the sign numerous times; I have also studied the [Arlington Public Schools] and YHS vision statements. I can find nothing in these signs that are not supported by, and in fact promoted by, the values and beliefs of [APS],” the station quoted Deborah A Waldron, a teacher at the school, as saying.

Ray Pasi, who asked that the signs be taken down, explained why: “These are divisive times in our society, unfortunately. We do want to keep our school a safe, positive, and caring place for all,” he wrote.

Although it’s clear that a lot of thought went into the messages on the signs, they are restricted to a single viewpoint on certain issues. And while I agree with the motive behind the message—and physics teacher Aaron Schuetz said the response has been largely positive and he especially appreciates, as I do, the statements about facts and science—many of the sentiments expressed aren’t factual in nature.

It is debatable, for instance, that diversity strengthens us. I think it does, but there’s a case to be made for the other side: that a unified army makes a stronger and more capable fighting force. We’re not talking about armies here and our goal isn’t that kind of strength, but the danger of bumper sticker-length slogans is that when kids leave the school, they may take those tweet-worthy sayings out of context. That’s the danger from an educational perspective.

As a result of the likelihood of taking the signs out of context and promoting learning that fails to account for the complexity of scientific (and political) information in this country, I believe the well-intentioned signs should be taken down and possibly replaced with a seminar or after-school opportunity for students, where the complexity of these issues can be discussed.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

Recent posts

Voxitatis congratulates the COVID Class of 2020

2020 is unique and, for high school graduates, different from anything they've seen. Proms, spring sports, & many graduation ceremonies are cancelled. Time for something new.

Vertical addition (m3.nbt.2) math practice

3rd grade, numbers and operations in base 10, 2, 3-digit vertical addition practice problem

Rubber ducks (m3.oa.1) math practice

3rd grade, operational and algebraic thinking, 1, rubber ducky modeling practice problem

Distance learning begins as Covid-19 thrives

What we learn during & from coronavirus, a challenging & imminent crisis, will provide insights into so many aspects of our lives.

Calif. h.s. choir sings with social distancing

Performances with the assistance of technology can spread inspiration across the globe even as the coronavirus spreads illness and disease.

Families plan to stay healthy during closures

Although schools are doing what they can to keep students learning and healthy during the coronavirus outbreak, that duty now shifts to parents.

Illinois temporarily closes all schools

IL schools will be closed on Tuesday, March 17, through at least March 30. Schools in 18 states are now closed due to coronavirus.

Coronavirus closures & cancellations

Many schools are closed and sports tournaments cancelled across America during what the president called a national emergency: coronavirus.

Coronavirus closes schools in Seattle

The coronavirus pandemic has caused colleges to cancel classes, and now Seattle Public Schools became the nation's first large district to cancel classes due to the virus.

Most detailed images ever of the sun

A new telescope at the National Solar Observatory snapped the most detailed pictures of the sun's surface we have ever seen.

Feds boost Bay funding

Restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed received a boost in federal funding in the budget Congress passed last month.