District Administration April 2018 - 18

BeyondtheNews
CURRICULUM

How to improve
the flawed teaching of slavery
Schools fail to adequately teach the history of American slavery, partly because
teachers lack the preparation to cover
it, according to a recent study from the
Southern Poverty Law Center.
Also, students have little basic knowledge about the role slavery played in shaping the nation: Only 8 percent of high
school seniors surveyed could identify
slavery as the central cause of the Civil
War, the study found. Two-thirds did not
know that it took a constitutional amendment to end the practice.
"You cannot understand the United
States of America if you don't understand
slavery," says Christy Clark-Pujara, report
contributor and associate professor of
Afro-American Studies at the University
of Wisconsin-Madison. "Any curriculum
about U.S. history that does not seriously
consider slavery is a myth."
Most state standards fail to include
meaningful requirements for learning
about slavery, the report found. A major
part of the problem? Nearly 60 percent of
teachers said their textbooks were inadequate on the subject.
While textbooks have improved from
past depictions of slavery as a carefree
welfare system, very few talk about racism, says historian and sociologist James

Loewen, who wrote a chapter in Understanding and Teaching American Slavery.
"They teach slavery without relevance
to the present," Loewen says. "That's the
biggest single failure."
Textbooks also almost completely
neglect the influence of slavery on foreign
and domestic policy, he adds.
'No good masters'
District leaders must give teachers time
and incentives to take courses on slavery,
says Clark-Pujara, author of another
chapter in Understanding and Teaching
American Slavery.
"This material is incredibly intimidating because we have a race problem in
America and most people are brought up
not to talk about it," Clark-Pujara says.
"Slavery is at the root of that."
Teachers should establish at the beginning of lessons that discussions about
slavery are difficult, but necessary, no
matter the race of the teacher or of the
majority of students.
Teachers should rely less on textbooks
and more on original sources in lessons
about slavery, Loewen says.
Clark-Pujara also recommends that
teachers draw a moral line in the sand
during lessons: "There is no good slavery,

MOVERS AND SHAKERS
On July 1, Cheryl Logan begins her
tenure as superintendent of Omaha
Public Schools, Nebraska's largest
school district. Logan will lead 8,000
staff members and serve a student
body where nearly 16 percent are
ELL and 75 percent
qualify for free and
reduced-price lunch.
Logan also faces a
$15.8 million budget
shortfall, the result
of an underfunded
pension system.

18 April 2018

Principal Todd Schafer of Shelby
County Schools says he will pay $100
out of his own pocket to parents
whose children attain perfect
attendance at Tennessee's Scenic
Hills Elementary. State law mandates
that parents can
face up to a $50
fine or 10 days
in jail time for
student truancy.
Fifty parents went
to court last year
as a result.

and there were no good masters," she says.
This becomes difficult when students
learn about the founding fathers, most
of whom were slaveholders. "You can
appreciate the Constitution and still be
critical of it as a document that supported
slavery," she says. "We underestimate students' ability to understand complexity."
California's new rules
In November, California became the first
state to mandate study of African-Americans and members of other ethnic and
cultural groups, with particular emphasis
on portraying the contemporary role of
these groups. The changes came with the
approval of new instructional materials
that align with the 2016 History/SocialScience Curriculum Framework, says
Scott Roark, spokesperson for the California Department of Education.
Another addition was more detail on
African-American history, and specifically
the institution of slavery.
"Through assigned readings, students
can reflect on the meaning of slavery both
as a legal and economic institution, and
an extreme violation of human rights,"
Roark says. "These materials will give students a deeper and more accurate understanding of history and equip them with
the critical thinking and research skills to
make up their own minds about controversial issues."
-Alison DeNisco

District Administration



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration April 2018

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