D.C. Officials Lay Plans To Introduce Afro-Centric Curriculum in City Schools

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Public-school officials in the District of Columbia are laying plans to introduce into an undetermined number of schools next fall an "Afro-centric" curriculum that was a flashpoint in the school board's November ouster of the district's superintendent.

Although no details were available last week, "a plan is being prepared for presentation" to board members March 5, Patricia A. Lambe, the school system's communication director, confirmed.

A review committee will be formed to scrutinize history, geography, and other textbooks, and to take other steps to provide adequate materials and orientation, she said.

While the idea is to have "a very broad-based" review committee, its composition has yet to be defined, Ms. Lambe added.

She said that an Afro-centric curriculum gives the "primary emphasis and major focus to the history and heritage of African-Americans."

Other urban districts, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Detroit, and Portland, Ore., have adopted similar approaches in recent years.

Twenty-four District of Columbia schools now have a multicultural program, Ms. Lambe said, and these programs likely would run concurrently in the schools that offer the Afro-centric curricula next fall.

According to preliminary plans, Afro-centric education would be offered across the district by the beginning of the 1992-93 school year.

When the district's board of education voted 8 to 3 to place Superintendent Andrew E. Jenkins 3rd on immediate leave, his supporters charged that school officials were trying to thwart Afro-centric education plans. Five of the board's eight black members voted to remove Mr. Jenkins, who also is black. (See Education Week, Dec. 12, 1990.)

One local parents' group expressed delight last week that Afro-centric education plans apparently are moving ahead.

"It will be study of the world from a non-European perspective," a curriculum that ensures that "as we teach what we normally teach, we will teach it more broadly," said Delabian Rice-Thurston, executive director of Parents United for the D.C. Public Schools.

"We are very impressed with the potential to improve student understanding of the world and to improve the teaching of world history, to increase the opportunity for cooperative learning and for more hands-on mathematics and science learning," she said.

She said that by looking at the world from more than the European-derived, traditional American viewpoint, Afro-centric learning may spur the study of foreign languages, too.

"The whole approach is really sound," she said. "It will be of benefit to all children," not just blacks. African-American students, she said, make up about 90 percent of the district's public-school enrollment, with white students adding about 3 percent and Hispanic students 7 percent.

Vol. 10, Issue 21, Page 4

Published in Print: February 13, 1991, as D.C. Officials Lay Plans To Introduce Afro-Centric Curriculum in City Schools
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