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Educators wrestle with new limits on teaching Black history

Educators wrestle with new limits on teaching Black history

Table of Contents


1. Commencement of Black History Month Amidst Teaching Restrictions

Today marks the beginning of Black History Month in schools and universities. However, educators across the country are grappling with increase Black History Education Restrictions about racism.

2. Significance of Restrictions: Teachers Navigate Limited Narratives

The significance: In the face of new laws in at least 14 states and various restrictions elsewhere, many teachers find themselves limited to merely mentioning important figures in Black history without delving into the racism they endured.

3. State Legislation Impact: A Closer Look at the Numbers

A closer look: According to an analysis by Axios, lawmakers in 30 states have proposed new restrictions in the past year on what schools can teach about the nation’s racial history. Florida, under Governor Ron DeSantis, has been particularly assertive in limiting educational content. In 2022, a bill was signed preventing the teaching of certain concepts related to race, national origin, or sex that could make students uncomfortable.

4. Caution in Classrooms: Teachers Navigate Educational Constraints

The impact: Teachers, including Crystal Etienne, a civics teacher in Miami-Dade County, Florida, express caution in approaching Black History Month due to these policies. The fear of violating new laws prevents many from using provided readings or lesson plans, even though they align with state standards.

5. Balancing Act: Teaching Black History Amidst Restrictive Environment

Etienne shares her struggle, saying, “How do I teach the end of slavery, the 13th Amendment, and then not answer or acknowledge” the atrocities of slavery. The restrictive environment leads to a reluctance among teachers to incorporate Black history into their lessons for fear of repercussions.

6. Roots of Restrictions: Activism Against Critical Race Theory (CRT)

The bigger picture: The limitations on teaching racism and Black history originated from activism against Critical Race Theory (CRT). While CRT is rarely taught in public schools, bans on it have prompted broader restrictions on educators. This has resulted in a stark disparity across the country in how students learn about Black history.

7. Educational Disparities: Impact on Students’ Learning Experiences

Sharif El-Mekki, founder and CEO of the Center for Black Educator Development, emphasizes the impact. Noting that students in different regions may receive vastly different lessons. For example, students in Philadelphia might have robust lessons on civil rights leaders. While those in Georgia might only hear about achievements like Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record without discussing the racism he faced. El-Mekki criticizes these restrictions, stating that they essentially ask teachers to “lie to students” by avoiding discussions about the racial context of historical figures like Hank Aaron and Jackie Robinson.

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