That the city Department of Education is developing an improved black history curriculum shouldn’t be the least controversial. But Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter’s claim that it’s all about “social justice” should sound alarms.
Worse, the people behind the project say the curriculum will introduce kids to the “role of race in power relationships and the impact of systemic and institutional racism.” The jargon certainly sounds like a wave, if not a kiss, at critical race theory — with all its obsessions with explaining everything as racism at work.
The new curriculum, planned for a rollout in schools early next May, is the first fruit of the $10 million “education equity” outlays that the City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus inserted into this year’s budget. Presumably, the DOE will also be producing Latino and Asian history curricula, too — since Porter says, “Our children have to see and experience themselves every single day in the curriculum.”
Is that really so? Frankly, racism is far from the central issue holding back so many minority students in the city’s lowest-performing schools and community school districts. The inability to read, write and do math at grade level is the biggest threat to their future. Whatever’s in the history textbooks, it’s no factor in learning math.
The larger context matters, too: The city and state education establishments have spent years watering down all standards (even as school spending soars ever upward, to above $42,000 per NYC student this year).
By killing Gifted & Talented classes (rather than opening up more of them, with an eye on underserved areas), discarding honors and college-bound programs and abandoning serious grading metrics, “reformers” do a far greater disservice to all students than any good from added lessons in “history of people who look like me,” especially if it turns out to be more about racializing history than teaching it.
What good is teaching the achievements of African civilizations or the innovations developed by black scholars, if students can neither read the material nor solve basic math problems?
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