Don’t be surprised if your adolescent asks you who Malcolm X is — they really may not know.
According to Teaching the Movement: The State of Civil Rights Education 2011, a new study by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance program, most states fail when it comes to teaching students about the civil rights movement.
The study examined 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine standards and curriculum requirements related to the movement, based on a body of knowledge that mirrors what civil rights historians and educators consider “core information.” Of those examined, thirty-five states received “F,” or failing, grades, suggesting that many states consider the civil rights movement to be an historical fact of regional significance or of importance only to Blacks.
Sadly, only three states — Alabama, New York and Florida — received a grade of “A-,” but it almost makes one wonder what Black history is being taught in our schools nationwide? “For too many students, their civil rights education boils down to two people and four words: Rosa Parks, Dr. King and ‘I have a dream,’” said Maureen Costello, SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance director. “When 43 states adopted Common Core Standards in English and math, they affirmed that rigorous standards were necessary for achievement. By having weak or non-existent standards for history, particularly for the civil rights movement, they are saying loud and clear that it isn’t something students need to learn.”
The study found that states earning a grade of “C” or better were in the South and that schools focus very little on obstacles civil rights activists faced, including racism and white resistance, and more on leaders and events.
The organization says that it issued the report to spark a national conversation about the importance of teaching about the civil rights movement.
With Black History Month about five months away, now could be a good time to teach that the civil rights movement lasted longer than the month of February, that all races of people were affected and that unsung heroes were in abundance.
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