Re: Definition of Race

J. Moore (
Tue, 24 Jan 95 16:01:00 -0500

Rs> and we are in the midst of a controversy with parents over the
Rs> definition of "race" in our curriculum guides (1988). Although our
Rs> middle school program focuses on "culture" as part of the geography
Rs> course, the question of defining race always seems to crop up.
Rs> We are trying to avoid having kids make comparisons of physical features
Rs> with their classmates.
Rs> What is the current thinking on a definition of race. I want to be
Rs> correct, not just politically correct. Any advice you can give will be
Rs> greatly appreciated.

Rs> Please reply to:

Rs> Thanks very much.

Rs> Bill Sowders

I'd strongly suggest digging up Boyce Rensberger's article of several
weeks ago about race. It was from the Washington Post (where he works
now, I believe) and was reprinted widely (I saw it in the Toronto Star).
He's a science writer who does good work generally, and that particular
article was very nicely done. In it, he explained, clearly and
concisely, what the reasoning is for our notions of race being
culturally based rather than biologically. In basic form, the problem
is that the "races" we've come up with are obviously different in some
ways, but if you pick other biological features (there are a lot and he
gives some examples) as the basis for racial differentiation, you come
up with entirely different "races". (Add in the difficulty of finding
"pure races" [at any time in human history] and you've got one messy
glob presented as if it were simple and easily divisible.)

Jim Moore (

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