Wednesday, June 22, 2005

More chat on the new school requirement

Two weeks ago, Philadelphia announced a bold new plan to require that all students take a course in African/African-American history -- see previous stories here and here. Four stories (two each at Inqy and DN) look more closely at this decision and the strong reponses it has elicited.
  1. Historians applaud the effort to address nonwhite history, but get into a deeper discussion about how such a course should be taught and/or whether the material would be better integrated into existing history classes.
    That puts the 185,000-student district at the vanguard of a national debate on history education that turns on these questions: What will be taught? What will be emphasized? How will ethnic groups be presented? And how can the focus be kept on turning out proficient students?
    Always tricky to decide how to interpret the past, let alone turn out "educated" graduates.

  2. Some prominent national black leaders praise the decision.
    Maya Angelou called the Philadelphia School District's decision requiring high school students to take a course encompassing African American history and the history of Africa "brilliant."

    The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. said: "One must see this as an asset to truth, not as a threat to the status quo."
    One can see it that way, but obviously...

  3. On the more local front, PA House Speaker John Perzel takes a different view.
    "I would like to see them master basic reading, writing and arithmetic," the Northeast Philadelphia Republican said in an interview yesterday, referring to the district's students. "Once we have them down pat, I don't care what they teach... . They should understand basic American history before we go into African American history."
    He is partly voicing the complaints of his constituents in the Northeast.

  4. A smaller piece profiles Sandra Dungee Glenn, who apparently was instrumental in getting the new course organized and approved.
    The school reform commissioner - a graduate of Philadelphia High School for Girls and former chief of staff for then-State Sen. Chaka Fattah - met with each of the other four commissioners and made her case.
    She appears to be active in trying to improve much about the city's schools, as well as working on urban policy issues with a national nonprofit foundation.


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