Task force urges delay in black curriculum Report advises 1992 start to give schools more time.

April 17, 1991|By Mark Bomster | Mark Bomster,Evening Sun Staff

A task force drafting plans to integrate African and black American history and culture into Baltimore's school curriculum is urging a year's delay of the project.

The panel's 62-page preliminary report, due out today, recommends a September 1992 implementation date rather than this September.

Individual schools that are prepared to implement the plan this September could still do so, but as a pilot project, the panel suggested.

A one-year delay would give the school system more time to conduct research, write the curriculum, buy materials and train staff, said Rebecca E. Carroll, co-chair of the committee.

The delay would also come at a time when educators are struggling to complete a comprehensive revision of the system's overall curriculum.

The revised curriculum, to be phased in over three years starting this September, may itself be delayed, said Meldon S. Hollis Jr., head of the school board's curriculum committee.

And Hollis warned that African and black American topics should be included as part of a completely revised curriculum, not introduced piecemeal.

"We want this . . . material to be developed and infused into the overall curriculum," he said.

But the recommended delay drew a cautious response from Hilton O. Bostick, president of the Oliver Community Association, which was instrumental in the push to have African and black American topics included in the curriculum.

"If this is a stalling tactic for one reason or another . . . then I would have a problem," he said.

But if more time is needed to come up with a better product, "then we're all for it," said Bostick. "We don't want them to throw a curriculum out there. We want a quality curriculum that's well prepared."

The task force report, due for a public hearing at Education Department headquarters Monday night, is the latest effort to add African and black American elements to the curriculum of Baltimore's predominantly black school system.

Formed in October, the task force considered ways of highlighting the achievements of Africans and black Americans in all endeavors, from mathematics and science to the fine arts and physical education.

For guidance, the task force consulted Molefi K. Asante of the African-American Studies Department at Temple University and read essays by Asante and educational theorist Asa Hilliard.

In an introductory statement to the report, the task force says that the curriculum must serve students of all cultural backgrounds, but notes that more than 80 percent of Baltimore's public school students are black.

"It is of the utmost importance that these students study the world and all its people within the context of their own cultural reference, and that they find themselves and their heritage represented accurately and fairly," the panel states.

The report goes on to cite a number of themes that would be addressed in a revised curriculum, including the importance of Africa and black Americans in the evolution of world culture.

And it gives a detailed list of topics that could be used by curriculum specialists to highlight those achievements.

The panel's final report, if eventually adopted by the school board, would provide a framework for specific revisions.

The panel's recommendations are intended to fill gaps and correct biased or inaccurate material in the current curriculum, said Carroll.

"We make no claim for the fact that [students] will improve their scholastic ability or will develop other characteristics," she said.

But Carroll added that the students "should know more. They don't. I didn't. They should know more about their African heritage and they should be proud of it."

Among the panel's recommendations for a revised curriculum are these:

* Mathematics: Extensive contributions to the development of mathematics by Africans and those who studied in Africa.

The report states, for example, that geometry began in ancient Egypt, that Euclid spent his entire life in Africa, and that Pythagoras spent 20 years studying in Egypt.

* Science: A range of topics, including the origins of human life in East Africa, pioneering scientific achievements that can be traced to Africa, and contemporary black American scientists.

* Social Studies: A study of African civilization from ancient times to modern Africa; the history and impacts of slavery, black American history.

* English Language Arts: The role of African oral traditions on the development of black American art and literature and the role of black American culture on standard American English.

Other subject areas dealt with in the report include dance, drama, music, physical education and the visual arts.

Copies of the preliminary report were to be made available to the general public today at the education department's Office of Communications, Room 319, 200 E. North Ave.

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