Black Lives Matter Movement Prods Bethlehem and Other Districts to Review How History is TaughtBreaking News
tags: education, African American history, Pennsylvania, teaching history
Jared Dowling was surfing the internet three years ago in June when he noticed a Google Doodle paying tribute to Juneteenth.
Having no idea what the event was, Dowling, a 2020 Freedom High School graduate heading to Syracuse University, spent all day reading about how it originated in Texas on June 19, 1865, when slaves learned of their freedom — two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.
In four years of high school, Dowling, who is Black, never learned about Juneteenth in classes. But that didn’t surprise him.
“There was never going to be a heavy focus on things of that nature in history class,” Dowling said.
Freedom, like other schools across the country, celebrates Black History Month in February. But classes that month tend to touch upon familiar issues, Dowling said. Figures such as Malcolm X and discriminatory policies in such things as housing are missing from textbooks.
“Every time February rolled around with Black History Month, it’d be a conversation about MLK Jr., Rosa Parks and something else that was currently happening, and that would be the extent,” Dowling said. “But that’s truly not enough.”
Schools do not honestly and accurately teach the struggles and history of African Americans, Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent Joseph Roy acknowledged. That’s why he is proposing that the district spend the next year reforming middle and high school history courses.
“Going way back, American history was to teach how great the country is,” Roy said. “And we are a great country, and I think we’re great enough that we can look at our failures and the progress we’ve made.”
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