Rhode Island teacher goes public with critical race theory curriculum: ‘I’m refusing to propagate lies’

Ramona Bessinger said there was an 'alarming' shift that took place regarding the implementation of a new, racially-focused curriculum

A Rhode Island middle school teacher says critical race theory is finding its way into public school classrooms and creating racial hostility and mistrust among her students. 

Ramona Bessinger has been a public school teacher for more than two decades. For the past seven years, she’s been a middle school teacher in Providence. She currently teaches at Esek Hopkins Middle School. Over the years, Bessinger says her lessons have been diverse, running the gamut from poems by Maya Angelou to speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr. She’s also taught units on slavery and the Harlem Renaissance, she said. 

"I consider the American story one of triumph," Bessinger told Fox News in an interview. "People overcome things … We are victorious. We are like the greatest nation on the planet. I feel very proud to be an American. And what is unique about this country is that we're diverse and we have cultural diversity. Maybe it's not perfect. It's there. And previous books that we had in the classroom represented that."

Bessinger said there was an "alarming" shift that took place during the 2020-2021 school year regarding the implementation of a new, racially focused curriculum.

Bessinger said there was an "alarming" shift that took place during the 2020-2021 school year regarding the implementation of a new, racially focused curriculum. (iStock)

But Bessinger, who wrote about her experiences for Legal Insurrection, said there was an "alarming" shift that took place during the 2020-2021 school year regarding the implementation of a new, racially focused curriculum. Around January, she received boxes of new books for her classroom. 

"I couldn't believe what I was seeing there, there were cartoon booklets, you know, all sort of sharing the same narrative," Bessinger said. 

The fairytale of Jack and the Beanstalk retold with African American Jack and an evil White giant. 

The fairytale of Jack and the Beanstalk retold with African American Jack and an evil White giant.  (Mary Diamond )

Books on pivotal moments in American history, for example, the American Revolution or the Civil War, all essentially came down to "somebody being aggressive or somebody oppressing somebody else." 

Bessinger said any one of these books wouldn’t necessarily have been an issue on their own, but they are the only books her students are supposed to read.   

Reading material from Bessinger's classroom, depicting fear of White oppression.  

Reading material from Bessinger's classroom, depicting fear of White oppression.   (Mary Diamond)

"That is problematic because, yes, it is a part of our history. We're not a perfect nation historically, but we're pretty darn close to it," Bessinger said. "We were teaching slavery. We were teaching the civil rights movement prior to all of this. Now, these books basically are suggesting to children that this is the only narrative that defines America."

Whites as aggressors is a running theme in many of the books assigned in the new curriculum. 

Whites as aggressors is a running theme in many of the books assigned in the new curriculum.  (Mary Diamond)

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Bessinger’s comments come amid nationwide concerns that critical race theory, a school of thought focusing on how power structures and institutions impact racial minorities, is being taught in classrooms. Liberal pundits and teacher unions, meanwhile, have either downplayed or contradicted that notion.  

A book showing a killer tiger formed from a White woman. 

A book showing a killer tiger formed from a White woman.  (Mary Diamond)

Bessinger clarified that "critical race theory" is not mentioned anywhere in the new curriculum, but said its "tenets" are implied in all of the lessons.

"The CRT theory is reflected in the novelettes and the booklets and the projects and the storylines and themes," Bessinger said. 

Ramona Bessinger

Ramona Bessinger (Mary Diamond)

Her students are almost entirely all African American or Hispanic. Bessinger, who is White, said she could sense a mistrust of her as their teacher. By the end of the year, some students were calling her "America" or asking her if she lived in a castle. 

"There was a bizarre fear of me, right? So, that made me very sad because I feel that, as educators … we really care about our students," she said. "We care that the kids feel good and welcome and (that) they feel they are Americans and part of our tradition and our heritage. Not that they are part of one camp and I am in another."   

Bessinger said there is a nervous tension that pervades her school and among her colleagues. Many have privately expressed their opposition to the new curriculum but are too afraid to speak out for fear of being labeled a racist.  

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"I'm refusing to propagate lies. I can't do that as a parent and as a teacher. I simply cannot do that. So let the cards fall where they may," she said. "I mean, what kind of a human being would I be if I simply went along with this and buried my head in the sand? What kind of a mother would I be? What kind of an educator would I be? So, no, I have no choice but to go public." 

Fox News has reached out to Providence Public Schools seeking comment.