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Should African-American History Be Mandatory?

By Courtney Williams

Recently the conversation about education in Philadelphia has shifted from the No Child Left Behind legislation to whether or not African American studies should become a mandatory course for high school students.   There are various attitudes that have emerged due to the proposed implementation of the course.   The public response was very supportive, for it included community leaders, parents, and students.  

Those in opposition of the course included students who were generally disinterested in academics altogether, close-minded parents, and surprisingly John Perzel.   Perzel is the speaker of the Pennsylvania House of representatives.   While expressing his views on the issue he exhorted that the course was "unnecessary;" furthermore he also stated "Most of these kids will never go to Africa.   They have no affinity for Africa."  


When politicians and ignorant individuals such as Perzel express themselves in such a manner, it is further clarified that they do not understand the African American experience.   As a student wherever he attended school, Perzel was introduced to subject matter that was relevant to his culture and his experience.   African Americans represent two-thirds of the Philadelphia School district; therefore it is only just that instruction that reflects their experience be included in the curriculum.  


Aside from the aforementioned views expressed, I concede that African American Studies should be a mandatory course in high schools nationwide.   Throughout the duration of time that Africans have spent on the North American continent the agenda of every government has been to ostracize them and perpetually keep them ignorant.   Overemphasizing European history, literature, and culture has done the act of excluding Africans.   Under no circumstances is it fair for the educational system to present propaganda to students.


While those in opposition may argue that some students are disinterested, or will never visit Africa, students still should not be denied the opportunity to study their ancestry.   The effects of the education agenda has left many African Americans disconnected from American culture, politics, and mainstream ideals.   If students were aware of how their ancestors contributed to the establishment of this country it will increase their sense of self-worth and possibly their civic involvement.   Those who lobby against such instruction are sowing seeds of destruction into the lives of African Americans students.   The seeds of destruction that have been sewn into the lives of millions has been obvious, given the premise that the education system was not created for Africans to excel in it.  

Instructors that do not incorporate African American history into every subject area are doing students a great injustice.    It is impossible for me to look at clocks and not think about Banneker, a street lamp without thinking about Latimer, my shoes without thinking about Matzeliger, or traffic lights without thinking about Morgan.   These attributions to American culture are significant, and there are about an infinite amount of other contributions that are as equally important.  


Overall "a people without knowledge of their history, is like a tree without roots."   The most efficient way to keep a population underachieving and displaced is to keep it ignorant of its history.   Now that African American history will be mandatory for 2005-06 incoming freshman, students can comprehensively study their history, apply it, and help to break down the barriers of ignorance.

Please direct any comments and questions to with the authors name in the subject line.





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