Saturday, March 07, 2009

Now on to Women's History Month!

When things get overwhelming at school, I just tell myself I'm collecting fodder for my book about kids and race.

Last Friday we had our celebration for Black History Month. As the school’s only social studies teacher, I decided to form a “Black History Month” committee. A group of students volunteered and took on the task of putting together activities for the month, which took the form of an afternoon of discussions and games.

At the staff meeting prior to the event, one of the school leaders asked, "What are you going to do when students object?" She meant white students. I said the students had planned to lead a discussion around whether Black History Month is necessary, based on articles from The Root. But I had the feeling that the teachers were trying to manufacture a controversy.

Needless to say, the controversy reared its big teenage head. Some quotes:
"Why do we always have to focus on the negative parts of history and not the positive parts?"

"Black History Month just makes it seem more like black and white people are different."

"I can see why it used to be important, but racism isn't an issue anymore."

"Why can't we have a White History Month?"
The upside was that the whole school was talking about race for an hour and a half. The downside was that rather than learning about the often-overlooked part of African Americans in the narrative of U.S. history, we spent that time instead focusing once again on ideas we can't agree on rather than ones we can agree on.

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