Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Marc Steiner Show: How should we teach social sciences in our schools?

Marc Steiner
WEAA 88.9 Baltimore
February 26, 2013 – Segment 3

"We close our show with a look at the debate taking place right now in Chicago, over whether or not Black History should be taught in schools. You will hear from a roundtable of educators and historians about how social sciences are taught and how they should be taught in our schools. Our guests include:

Alan Gilbert, John Evans Professor in the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver and author of Black Patriots and Loyalists;

Robert W. Simmons III, Assistant Professor in the Teacher Education Department at Loyola University and Director of the Center for Innovation in Urban Education;

Roni Ellington, Associate Professor of Mathematics Education at Morgan State University’s School of Education and Urban Studies;

and Michelle D. Wright, head of the History and Africana Studies programs at CCBC Essex."


Listen here at the bottom of the page.


This conversation takes up the difference between a democratic history from below, one which is inclusive of all voices, and emphasizes the central role of blacks in fighting for freedom (emancipation) in the Civil War and the Revolution and the prevailing, largely racist perspective which omits blacks (as well as Chicanos, native americans and others; a similar point applies to a dominant national history - as opposed to global history from below, or to a patriarchal and homophobic history).


Several people contrasted a history of "facts" for Jeopardy or to "do well" on narrow "standardized" tests with empowerment of students to learn and act for themselves as democratic citizens.


I suggested teaching from below - the perspective of indigenous people toward Sand Creek or black people in the American Revolution. I nominated a line from a powerful poem by Brecht:

"Hannibal crossed the Alps
Did nobody cross with him?"

which drew a chuckle from Marc.


This is broadly speaking history which seeks the truth. For instance, it is true that blacks, following the Emancipation Proclamation, were 80% of those who joined Union forces in the last two years of the Civil War. It is true, as Black Patriots and Loyalists shows, were the main soldiers for the Patriots and most of the dead at Yorktown.

In contrast, the Daughters of the American Revolution have long been racist - once an evil organization, now one slowly changing. Their view, characteristic of dominant history teaching (and even the New York Times about the Revolution as of this moment), is false. See here.


As Robert Simmons emphasized, one teacher in a high school tried to use hip hop and was warned by the principal to back off. This is closing in around mediocre teaching to a test (see Jonathan Kozol, The Shame of America: the Reapartheidization of American Schools).

That is the opposite of a decent and democratic education.


Cutting off Afro-American history in the Chicago schools is cutting off history...


We had a striking conversation, one which could have gone on for several hours, about how to empower students in contrast to Obama's "race to the top" and emphasis in the State of the Union on engineering.

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