Contributor Mark Fowser reports on Delaware’s work to create a new Black History curriculum for schools
Black History Month 2022 falls about seven months after Governor John Carney signed legislation that will require Black History to be taught in Delaware schools.
It was an idea, according to the sponsors of Bill 198, that came from the very people for whom the new curriculum is intended: young African Americans, who felt that the history they were learning was not really about them, and that the story they cared about was locked up in the shortest months of the year.
“I think that’s the thing that resonates with me the most, that when we listened to our students, they often shared that they didn’t see themselves in the program,” said Monica Gant, associate secretary of the Delaware Department of Education Academic Support Team. “Here is an opportunity for us to get it right and give them this opportunity to be able to experience the program and see themselves in it – as windows and mirrors they can see others but they can also see themselves. .”
To help school districts and charter schools in Delaware meet the requirement that black history be taught in various subjects from kindergarten through 12th grade, the Delaware Department of Education, schools academics and various community organizations provide information and advice.
“198 to me is us as a state finally saying that we are going to effectively and accurately teach our true history,” Delaware Education Secretary Mark Holodick said.
The DOE works through the Delaware Social Studies Coalition, as well as the NYU Metro Center, also known as the Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools – “that’s what they do, look at the culturally responsive education and how we can ensure that the curriculum and resources we organize comply with legislation, how these meet the standards of cultural responsiveness,” according to Gant.
“To me, it’s us as a state finally saying we’re going to effectively and accurately teach our true history.”
Delaware Education Secretary Mark Holodick
Delaware will also look at what is happening in other states.
Meanwhile, a team led by Delaware State University is specifically studying the Black History curriculum for grades 8 and 11, using a $230,000 grant over two years.
“Grade 8 students, in my opinion, are in the perfect location and are at that level of learning where they can go from simple learning content, like what happened in what year and who were the people involved, to now look at things like historical interpretation,” DSU associate professor of history Niklas Robinson said.
Additionally, acknowledging that they are working with students today, Robinson says the DSU-developed component of the Black History curriculum is looking at the possibility of including visuals, perhaps podcasts, and considering how students absorb information.
House Bill 198 did not pass unanimously last year, and around the time it became law, the debate over critical race theory escalated. According to Robinson, this is a debate that was started as a talking point, to try to scare people into having candid and conscious discussions about race. Additionally, according to Robinson, CRT is an academic theory that is talked about primarily at the graduate level and the development of Delaware’s Black History curriculum has nothing to do with CRT.
According to the bill’s sponsor, State Representative Sherry Dorsey Walker (D-Wilmington), black history can be integrated into a variety of fields by highlighting African Americans accomplished in science (Katherine Johnson, one of the first black women at NASA), mathematics (Benjamin Banneker, a land surveyor who helped establish the boundaries of the District of Columbia), and innovation and invention (Garrett A. Morgan, for whom we can thank the traffic light).
“These are things that it’s important for our children to learn real history – all children learn real history – so that we have a better understanding of each other’s culture and our contributions to society.”