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Monday, February 02, 2015

What if I taught Black history???

Black nationalist flag
Recently I found this article out of Washington, DC, some teachers from a public school had been fired by their principal. The alleged reason was teaching Black history in the context of social science. Allegedly the principal disapproved of teaching Kwanzaa and the late DC Mayor Marion Barry.

I could just talk about this article then I thought about it. What if I - Levois - taught Black history. This is what we will discuss  at the start of Black History Month.

Last year, I wrote about my thoughts on this yearly tradition which will be reposted at my "Shedd School" blog. Some TV stations around the nations will show a young person - who likely is anywhere from a grammar school to high school student - reciting some quick fact about Black history that could be used as a soundbite during commercial breaks. My thought was that Black history is more than this quick 15, 30 second, or one minute soundbite.

My way of teaching the subject of Black history would involve critical thinking. It's something that I've only gotten better with at least by the time I was done at Morehouse. It wasn't entirely something that was ingrained in me in my time as a public school student.

As a sophomore in high school - GO FALCONS - I had taken Black history. For the first time I had been introduced to the Black pledge of allegiance and Kwanzaa. I as a public school student was already aware of this poem which has been referred to as the "Black National Anthem". We sometimes sung it after we sung either "My Country Tis of Thee" or "The Star Spangled Banner".

We had been taught about the idea of conditioning - that is slaves had been conditioned to believe that they were born to be slaves. We had been taught that a Black poet Phyllis Wheatley had been conditioned and we know this through her poetry. We also had substitutes who made it know they were "pro-Black".

We had also been taught about Willie Lynch. Lynch reportedly wrote a letter that spoke of conditioning slaves. Although the authenticity of this letter have been called into question, we still talk about the letter. Even stating that Lynch's prescribed conditioning still have long lasting effects.

Then over the years I started to believe a lot of this is a form of propaganda. That's not to say we should never have learned of this at all. But there is a way of presenting this without making it seems like a fact.

Phyllis Wheatley, Willie Lynch, and others is a way of using Black history to teach critical thinking. I would prefer students learning Black history whether they be Black or whatever to decide for themselves if some subjects regarding Black history is valid or not. Is conditioning of slaves a real concept, for example. This is how I would like to have been able to lead a classroom.

Who knows perhaps one day I made decide to teach and may touch bases with Black history. At that hopefully I would be teaching this with older students who are at least between 12 to 18 who might take well to critical thinking.

In the meanwhile I can only ponder how I could conduct my own lessons in Black history.

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