Black History Month lacks recognition in classrooms
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So it’s February. The month of Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day… and Black History Month.
It’s more than a little insulting that America chose to honor black history in not only the shortest month of the year, but also a month filled with other holidays. February was chosen because the precursor to Black History Month, Negro History Week, was the second week of February to celebrate the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln beginning in 1926. It was changed to Black History Month in 1976. I guess “they” decided we should just cram all recognition for black people into one month. But alas, whoever the elusive “they” are that designate months chose February so February it is.
So what do we do to honor black history in school? Study influential black leaders? Celebrate black literature? Learn about current black innovators? Actually, none of the above. Schools barely address black history other than maybe to say that it’s happening. Unfortunately, even when schools do teach black history, it’s limited to the most common figures of the civil rights movement like Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks, as if the only notable black people were related to the civil rights movement.
Students should learn about successful black businesspeople, inventors and artists. And not only should there be more variety in our study of black history, but it should be more spread throughout the year. In January, comedian Leslie Jones addressed this issue on Saturday Night Live’s weekend update.
“We should teach all black history all the year round and teach it to everybody,” Jones said.
Right now, it seems like any mention of black people in school is limited to slavery and the civil rights movement. If schools incorporated black history into the curriculum, the subject would be taken a lot more seriously than it is now in the one month where it barely makes an appearance in classrooms.
The history studied in school should be more diverse because race pretty much always has and probably always will play a prominent role in American political and social issues. No matter the time period, studying more diverse history will also give teachers a chance to discuss current issues. Unfortunately, when curriculum changes are made, they often focus on keeping up with international math and science scores. Because of this, schools will probably never place importance on changing the way we teach history. However, whether or not schools ever improve the way they teach black history, we should all learn more about it because black history is American history which is all our history.