Bill proposed to include African-American history in public school curriculum

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Bill proposed to include African-American history in public school curriculum

Senior Sonya Hadley and junior Evan Davis testify in favor of bills proposed to include African-American history in the public school curriculum.

Senior Sonya Hadley and junior Evan Davis testify in favor of bills proposed to include African-American history in the public school curriculum.

Photo by Izzi Greenberg

Senior Sonya Hadley and junior Evan Davis testify in favor of bills proposed to include African-American history in the public school curriculum.

Photo by Izzi Greenberg

Photo by Izzi Greenberg

Senior Sonya Hadley and junior Evan Davis testify in favor of bills proposed to include African-American history in the public school curriculum.

Jenna Rabah, Staff Writer

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Recently, in the Connecticut state legislature, a bill was proposed to include African-American history in the public school curriculum. This bill was proposed to the Education Committee by Representative Bobby Gibson of the 15th district. If the bill is voted out of the committee, it will move on to the state House of Representatives.

Senior Sonya Hadley and junior Evan Davis, along with other students in Connecticut, have written testimonies and testified in-person during the public hearing. If passed, this bill would mandate the teaching of African-American history in K-12 schools across Connecticut. The bill is similar to legislation that mandates the teaching of genocides in public schools. This bill was proposed alongside a bill calling for the same requirements for the inclusion of Puerto Rican and Latino studies in the public school curriculum.

While this bill is in the voting process, social studies teachers and the department head at the high school, Elizabeth Mancini, are trying to make social studies classes more representative of all groups. Currently, Mancini teaches a half-year African-American History social studies elective that is available to all juniors and seniors.

Last year, history teachers at the high school began work to create a more inclusive curriculum focusing on equity. Mancini said they started by asking questions such as “How can we make our curriculum, the resources, and the strategies we use more inclusive of all demographics at the school?” Mancini also said, “Teachers have tried to incorporate new units, bring in new primary sources, and ask different questions as ways to bring about inclusivity to the school.”

A disproportionate number of teachers in Connecticut are white. According to the State Department of Education, 91% of teachers in Connecticut are white. Connecticut Mirror, a nonprofit media organization, found that in 2017, 23 school districts out of 170 did not have a single educator of color. In light of these statistics, Mancini questions, “Is what we’ve always taught essential because that’s what we were taught was essential? Is that a full story of American history or is that our story of American history? Being all white, we all learned from white teachers, went through a white school system, and so how does that change the way we teach kids now and does that need to change?” The movement for a more inclusive curriculum aims to ensure that the history taught in schools is not subject to these biases.

Many students support this effort and see the bill as an opportunity to come together as a school. Dylan Morris, junior, said, “It would be good to learn all people’s backgrounds. If we want to nurture a diverse community, we need to understand where we come from.”

Senior Angel Rios-Bermudez sees this bill as a progression from generations of textbook whitewashing. Rios-Bermudez said, “[The bill] would be a good idea. In general, if you look at our history books, everything is washed to see the American and European viewpoint; they never elaborate on minority history… History should be looked at from different viewpoints, if anything were to happen it is good to be able to look at it from different sides of the aisle.”

In his written testimony in support of the bill, Gibson, who proposed the bill, wrote, “The more we know about one another, the more we can understand one another. The more we can understand one another, the more we can love one another. The more we love one another the greater our country will be… All of our children will benefit from knowing African American History because it is American History.”

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