Wednesday, February 15, 2006

If Euro-centric is racist . . .

From the Chicago Tribune:
Schools consider Afrocentric curriculum:
Evanston-Skokie district's proposal targets achievement gap between blacks and whites
By Lolly Bowean, Tribune staff reporter. Freelance writer Brian Cox contributed to this report
Published February 15, 2006

Hoping to better capture the attention of African-Americans and close the achievement gap between black and white students, a group of parents and educators is pushing for adoption of an African-centered curriculum in Evanston/Skokie School District 65.The curriculum would keep state-required core subjects such as reading, language arts and math but include the history and culture of Africans and African-Americans in daily school lessons.

Two points:

1) Why do we need programs that focus exclusively on students from one race? That strikes me as being racist in itself. What good will "building self-esteem" do? I thought the purpose of schools was to teach, not to make them feel good about themselves. Do white students get "European culture" lessons? What would be the point? Shouldn't we teach our students to become citizens in an American culture?

2) They hope this program will help bridge the gap between whites and blacks. In what way? Aren't the biggest shortfalls in our schools in areas such as math, science, and reading? How will wasting time with culture lessons solve that at all?

Honestly, sometimes I just don't get people in this town at all.

3 comments:

meera said...

the problem is that k-12 education is already disproportionately eurocentric. (if you think i'm kidding, check out the standard "world history" book that is used in classrooms. there is usually one - two if the editor is feeling generous - chapter(s) on asia.) if you are upset about the curriculum being changed to an african-centered one, you should also be upset that it is currently a euro-centered curriculum, for the sake of fairness. if "american" culture is what you believe students should be taught, then there needs to be some infiltration of african/asian/hispanic/etc. cultures into the current standard, for it to truly be "american" culture.

also, you claim that this is taking the emphasis away from the subjects that really need to be taught. as stated in the opening line of the article exerpt, however, the intentions seem to be to promote closing the achievement gap through modified delivery. perhaps, by finding a better way to reach the students, there will be greater success in teaching these subjects. school is not just for rote learning - if it were, then why would there be a need for teachers? just throw a textbook at the kids and have them figure it out...

Hal said...

A few thoughts:

I understand that world history text books tend to be euro-centric, but from an American perspective, it seems like information that would be most "pressing" early on is history that affected the US the most. European history had a greater affect on the US because that is where the original settlers of founders of the US colonies came from.

Modified delivery is one thought, but what the heck is an "Afrocentric" approach to math? And rote learning is not the alternative to "uncultured" lessons. But when there is such a concern with students falling behind in the basics, why should these teachers be spending so much energy on topics for which there is no evidence that they help improve performance on the basics?

meera said...

why should we just be learning world history from an "american perspective"? that's why the course is "world history" not "world history as it applies to the united states". and even if you want to make that argument, didn't a large population of slaves come over from africa? aren't these people a big part of early american history? shouldn't we then learn about african history? i don't remember covering that so much...

But when there is such a concern with students falling behind in the basics, why should these teachers be spending so much energy on topics for which there is no evidence that they help improve performance on the basics?
do you believe that students shouldn't take time out of the day for art class? or music? or gym? these aren't essential to learning "the basics" like reading or math, but most would agree that they are invaluable to a student's learning.