School curricula must include more Black representation

Editor’s note: This piece first published in the Berkeley High Jacket.

By: Berkeley High Jacket’s editorial board

As we read over the many submissions received for the Black History Month issue, the editorial board began to consider what Black history means in our education system. As education is universally regarded as a means of achieving and promoting equity, and ethnic studies has been repeatedly demonstrated to improve academic achievement across the board, how Black history is taught matters.

At Berkeley High School, Black history may be the subject of an entire course, incorporated into the curriculum all year, resigned to a single month, or ignored. A common sentiment among students in all classes is that the current focus on Black history is lacking. Beyond the eurocentric nature of many history classes, English classes rarely teach works of Black authors, science is guided by the laws of white men and, for many of us, it took watching a movie to learn that of one of the most spectacular applications of calculus was by a Black woman.

There is no reason to confine Black history and education about it to only a single month every year. When teachers allot time to learning specifically about Black history, the lessons most often consist of what has become a repetitive lecture on the extraordinary efforts of Martin Luther King Jr. The Black American struggle against oppression began more than three centuries before Dr. King. The extensive impact that Black people have had in the United States throughout history cannot be given justice from a few class periods once a year.

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The deep roots of Black history must be integrated with the “traditional” curriculum of our history classes. There are numerous Black heroes and influencers from throughout history who have never received the recognition they deserve. It is not merely a race issue, but a socioeconomic, gendered, religious and colorist one. Every aspect of how Black history is taught significantly influences the contemporary perception of Black people and has the potential to reinforce the racist stereotypes that perpetuate discrimination.

There is a specific month dedicated to Black history because it took nearly 200 years for Black Americans to be legally guaranteed the purported “unalienable” rights of Thomas Jefferson. This month also serves to remind everyone that equality has not been achieved, that the efforts are ongoing and that history is being written. Ultimately, Black history is our history. Neglecting to teach the vast contributions of Black people in our country threatens to define and sustain our national intolerance in ignorance.

This editorial represents the opinion of Berkeley High Jacket’s editorial board.