The Philadelphia public schools are making a course in African and African-American history a requirement for graduation.
The course is part of the 205,000-student district’s push to standardize its curriculum across all academic disciplines, said Joe Lyons, a district spokesman.
While some high schools offered black-history classes, each was unique, prompting the district to create the African and African-American curriculum. The class will be offered at every high school in the city starting this fall and will be required for members of the class of 2009.
After parents learned about the new requirement in letters sent home last month, some urged the district to include courses about the history of Hispanics and Asian-Americans. Mr. Lyons said the district is developing courses that would explore the history and culture of other racial and ethnic groups.
Members of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission, which runs the district, believe that in a district whose enrollment is 67 percent black, the African-American history course could teach black students more about their culture, Mr. Lyons noted. In addition, he said, members of the commission believed that students of other races and ethnicities would gain a greater appreciation of their black classmates’ history.
During a Feb. 16 meeting, the commission unanimously approved replacing one of five high school electives with the history course. Students also are required to take American history, world history, and social science.
Elaine Wrisley Reed, the executive director of the National Council for History Education, in Westlake, Ohio, said she was not aware of any other public school district that had made a black-history course a graduation requirement. The national trend is to integrate African-American history into courses in American history, she said.
Philadelphia’s new course will begin with lessons about African civilizations and will follow the forced migration of Africans to the Americas. The course will examine the experiences of Africans and African-Americans, including the civil rights movement and the recent wave of African immigrants to the United States.