How is Black history actually taught in American schools?

Experts have long said that curricula are inadequate for understanding the role of race and racism in America’s past. Today, much of K-12 curriculum is under review to be changed by state lawmakers across the country.

It’s Black History Month — a time many Americans take to reflect on the contributions of African Americans as well as how our anti-Black racist past has shaped American life today. Even the idea of discussing or thinking about Black history as something separate from American history should cause us to stop and think about how we approach these topics. That’s especially true in our schools. Experts have long said that our curricula are inadequate for understanding the role of race and racism in America’s past. Today, much of K-12 curriculum is under review to be changed by state lawmakers across the country.

“You have, right now, bills in 35 states that are taking on these issues. Issues of divisive concepts being taught in schools, divisive concepts being issues around race and gender and sex, even, in 35 states.” — Chastity Pratt, Wall Street Journal


Listen: How Black history is being taught and how it falls short.

 


Guests

Desiree Cooper is a journalist, activist and caregiver. Cooper says young students can’t be initially taught the brutality of America’s anti-Black history until they are taught what is fair. “Tell the moral of the story, teach the moral of the story, and your heart will search for the rest. The kids will read and understand the rest and understand the context,” she says.

Chastity Pratt is an education bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal. “You have, right now, bills in 35 states that are taking on these issues,” says Pratt. “Issues of divisive concepts being taught in schools, divisive concepts being issues around race and gender and sex, even, in 35 states.”

Akilah Lyons-Moore is an assistant professor of clinical education at the University of Southern California, a former K-12 teacher and administrator who has extensive experience training new teachers. Lyons-Moore says it’s important teach broader rules of fairness. Lyons-Moore says she was accused of being racist and trying to “indoctrinate” children when teaching about race in American history. “I oftentimes would open up my classroom, my curriculum, and show [parents] what we were doing as a group in the classroom,” she says.

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