How many of these African-American pioneers can your students identify? February is celebrated nationally every year as Black History Month.
Why must educators celebrate Black History Month? Consider the following questions about what happens in your classroom from Teaching Tolerance:
- How often do your students learn about the contributions of black individuals to U.S. society?
- Are your students able to explain to someone else the contributions that black individuals have made in the United States?
- How many books or other texts by black writers do your students read during the academic year?
- How many books or other texts do your students read during the academic year that highlight black experiences?
- If your students’ readings have black characters, do these characters have positions of power?
Use this month to deepen cultural responsiveness in both your content and practice. Discuss black history and the relevance to current events, and think critically about how you can embed underrepresented groups into your teaching all year round. Read more about the history of Black History Month, and create lessons from the plentiful resources that you can use in your classes this month. A deliberate and culturally affirming 21st Century educator is mindful of the social and political climate, and delivers culturally relevant classroom instruction to student learners. In order to affirm all students, embrace, celebrate and appreciate diversity, effective teaching must reflect an inclusive framework that demonstrates the authentic desire to cultivate global competence.
In order to prepare today’s learners to engage in a global society and compete in a global economy, they must be fully equipped with the competencies necessary for productive global citizenship. On a daily basis, youngsters are engaging others via technology on a global level. Within the boundaries of this country, we must not fail to equip our learners with self-knowledge, as well as knowledge of others. If we wish to ensure and maximize achievement of ALL students in this country, then we must teach them in ways that provide a balanced view about one another. In school settings, we must operate from the certain knowledge that the black experience is just as relevant to our history as other groups. It is labeled insanity when one does the same thing over and over again, yet expects different results.
If nothing changes, then nothing changes. Black children’s lives are equally as important in the classroom as other groups. In a different context, Africans were first brought to this country in 1620, and that means there is at least 400 years of history-experiences, triumphs, challenges and relevance to students in public schools. Hasn’t anyone noticed that schools don’t teach black history? We can’t be serious about promoting and ensuring equity in education, and quality learning experiences for every student who attends our nation’s public schools. Hasn’t anyone noticed that black and brown children comprise the vast majority of students in schools ?
Euro-centric perspectives from which we frame education, design curricula and deliver instruction that is built upon severely ‘edited’ historical ‘facts’.
In support of the factual falsehoods, instruction is based upon unchallenged non-fact-checked textbooks. Strategically watered-down facts is like the perpetuation of the negative stereotypes, false narratives and system-sanctioned discrimination of people of color in America. We, as educators, truly hold the keys and the answer to divisiveness in this country. We hold the keys to peaceful co-existence of all people, in the various forms of diversity in this country. Once the doors are opened to the exploration of often maligned diversity, in the classroom, the seeds of tolerance, empathy and respect will be planted in the youngest, impressionable minds of the children in classrooms all over.
The question that we must ask ourselves is: Do we sincerely wish for the enlightenment of our children? Are their futures worth our efforts to prepare them to lead us into a bright future? Shouldn’t intelligence, aptitude and character be the ultimate determinant of an equitable, competency-based global society? With motivation, determination and a fair shot at achieving excellence, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation are taken out of life’s equation. Isn’t that our jobs as educators-to level the playing field by providing opportunities for all children to learn self-respect, to be respected and learn to think critically about the complexities of life? To know one’s self, one’s history, is the foundation of teaching tolerance and embracing diversity.
Last question: Don’t all parents want their children to know their history and identify their heroes who will give them the confidence to pursue their own excellence? They look to schools to step in and give them that which they have, and don’t get at home. If parents don’t know, children don’t know, the most appropriate settings where children have to provide answers about who they are, who they were, and who they can be is schools. Education is unafraid of truths, educators must be unafraid of truths and so,….. we must teach black history, we must celebrate black history, and we must develop a mindset of teaching beyond the textbooks…..at least until these texts reflect “A People’s History”!.