To the Editor:
The special report “Big Ideas for Confronting Racism in Education” (Sept. 23, 2020) highlighted essential ingredients for creating anti-racist schools, including better teacher preparation, expanded anti-bias training, and universal internet access, among others.
Another powerful lever for change is culturally sustaining curriculum when it connects the present to the past and reflects and honors students’ identities and the diversity of our schools. For too long, we’ve relied on individual teachers to create lessons that pay down the debt created by the erasure of communities of color from the curriculum. This approach isn’t sustainable and often puts the burden of curriculum development on educators of color rather than on publishers and school districts. What’s more, while representation is important, it’s not enough.
Culturally sustaining curriculum presents ideas and concepts that are authentic to students’ traditions and experiences. For example, Appalachian, Latinx, and women’s histories are equally valid and worthy of study, and students should have the opportunity to explore how events and great thinkers associated with these groups shape the present.
Today’s students are more diverse than ever, and they are growing up during a time of unprecedented economic upheaval and a long-overdue reckoning on racial injustice. With many school buildings still closed, culturally sustaining curriculum is an important way to keep students engaged in learning by acknowledging their identities and making school relevant to their lives.
Managing Director of Curriculum & Assessment
A version of this article appeared in the November 18, 2020 edition of Education Week as Curriculum as a Lever for Racial Equity