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    Wednesday, February 15, 2006

    But Eurocentrism is for Everybody!

    Evanston-Skokie school districts consider adding "Afrocentric" curriculum:

    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. ...

    What troubles school board member Jonathan Baum, who led Monday's committee meeting, is "how do we explain this to our children?"

    Martin Luther King Jr. brought blacks and whites together, and the Afrocentric curriculum could mean that students would be separated based on race, because whites and Latinos may opt out of the classes, Baum said. ...

    When Shepard visited Woodlawn Community School, a Chicago public school, she was impressed that state test scores have climbed since 2001.

    "I always believed the reason white children achieved is because everything was for and about them," she said. "There was nothing that showed a child of color at the center. With an African-centered curriculum, the kids see themselves everywhere."

    But there's no proof that the concept actually works, said Harvard University's Ron Ferguson, who teaches and writes about educational issues.

    "It's not something to be afraid of or terribly enthusiastic about," he said. "They are groping for a way to get black kids engaged academically. If you get some charismatic teachers on board, you may get results. But those same charismatic teachers might try another technique and it would work too." ...

    And though the pilot program would be implemented at Oakton Elementary School, which is 49 percent black, and Kingsley, which is 41 percent black, it could be divisive if only African-Americans volunteer for the program, according to some at Monday's meeting. ...


    What is absolutely unbelievable to me is that there's an opt-out for white and Latino kids. Because white kids would be so damaged by hearing about the accomplishments of black people for more than that 28-day stretch of hardship called "Black History Month".

    I'm all for a "melting pot" curriculum, wherein kids learn about history, literature, art, and culture from around the world and from as many different angles as possible. I am always hearing about how that means we'd have to drop some of the "Great Achievements of Western Civilization," but why is that so terrible, if we're replacing it with other good material? If we were replacing all of Einstein, the Wright Brothers, Thomas Edison, and Alexander Graham Bell with only George Washington Carver (I love peanut butter but ...), then, yes, that's a problem. But we all know it doesn't have to be that way. It often is that way because of racist bias (the idea we perpetuate with our educational system in America at least that blacks never did much except finally get freed from slavery by white people), but it doesn't have to be. I mean, why is it that children in the school band study Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Handel, Vivaldi, and then, to get modern, Stravinsky and Gershwin? How about Charlie Parker, Charlie Christian, Dizzie Gillespie, etc, etc, etc? I don't think we'd be replacing "Greats" with crap, we'd be replacing some "Greats" with other "Greats". Big loss. (By the way, I'm not saying all blacks have accomplished was music or sports or something. Just wanted to make that clear.)

    I went to an elementary school that did the whole "Afro-centric" curriculum thing and, to tell the truth, I never noticed that everyone I was studying (not just Dr. King and Rosa Parks, but Malcolm X!) was black because I was white. (All my teachers were also black and the majority of the other children were black, though there were some Latinos.) Looking back, I notice. But I don't think I grew up thinking white people sucked because of it. Know why? 'Cause everything else told me white people were good. I'm glad my parents didn't "opt me out" of that learning (though it wasn't an option for me, as far as I know). My point is that I don't think that, for white kids, it's going to cause a bit of harm to their psyches to study the acheivements of people of different races from their own. And the idea that Afro-centric curriculum is only a mechanism for bringing up the grades of black students, rather than an actual path of learning is really infuriating.

    Edited to add: Heterocentrism is for everyone, too.

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