Thursday, February 16, 2006

Afrocentric Redux

I thought the discussion involving the potential "Afrocentric Curriculum" merited a new post because I need to make some clarifications.

I can't pretend to be an expert on K-12 education. I don't know how certain topics of history and social studies are introduced, and at what pace. So I really shouldn't say that "culture lessons" (whatever, that means) would be inappropriate.

My arguments seem to have come off as indicating that subjects that aren't reading, math, and science are superfluous. This was not my intent.

The summary of my thoughts at this point:

  1. The point of this entire program is to help close the gap of achievement between black and white students. How are these achievement gaps measured? Typically by scores in subjects such as reading, science, and math. What I don't understand, then, is how history and "culture" lessons will affect this, regardless of the cultural focus.

  2. As far as history goes, I'm certainly not against offering students lessons in African history (in high school they ought to be optional). But I have a problem with any world history course. Considering how poorly some people understand American history, why is there such a fuss to add in other histories? Can we agree that people should understand their own history before worrying about international histories?

  3. By setting different standards for black and white students, what kind of message are we sending?
Just some thoughts. More will coalesce as time goes on.


meera said...

1. it seems like they are using these lessons to get more students - the ones who are falling behind in the tested subjects - back into school, period. if these kids are disinterested and don't care about school as a whole, but suddenly there's something that makes them want to pay attention, perhaps they will also pay attention to other classes. this is also a modified approach to teaching. by presenting something that captures their interest and the students care about (this is, of course, presuming they do care...i don't know these kids and don't know the specifics), there will be renewed interest in learning, which may then drip over to "basic" subjects. i can identify with that, as the same thing happened to me in grad school. i had only one project and i hated it - consequently, i hated coming to lab. as soon as i added a project i liked, it made me hate my life less, and even made crappy project 1 bearable.

2. most every other country in the world can efficiently learn their own history (Which most likely starts many years before american history does) as well as other country's history. however, if you believe that we should first master american history before venturing into others', then do you believe the history we teach should be revamped? as an example, many schools (in illinois at least) extensively cover explorers. maybe we need to learn about explorers who are directly related to america, but should we get rid of the ones who are related to exploration of the rest of the world? where do you draw the line as to what related to american history and what doesn't? and if you include anything that's not directly related to america, how can you justify exluding other things?

3. i'm not really clear how you believe this plan proposes to set different standards for black and white students?

Hal said...

Just a quick note: The original blog where I found this story also linked to a discussion of an article about what might be the underlying problem in all of this.

It's a few years old, but it's a look at the culture of anti-intellectualism within black American culture. I'll include the link without commentary, just because I think it makes interesting additional reading.