Some speakers at a public hearing last night warned against watering down a plan intended to include aspects of African and black American history and culture in the Baltimore school curriculum.
"The suggested topics are minimal at best," said Ademola Ekulona, a speaker who is in the business of writing instructional materials.
Ekulona said that the school board task force devising the plan "seems to accept the agenda of European civilization." He urged the panel to base its curriculum changes on a traditional African view of the world.
More than 70 people packed a board room at school headquarters to comment on the 62-page preliminary blueprint drawn up by the task force.
The plan will have to be approved by the school board, including a proposal that curriculum changes go into effect in September 1992, not this September as originally proposed.
If approved, the task force report would form the framework for specific changes in the school curriculum, which is undergoing a complete revision.
Another speaker, Brian Morrison, a parent and teacher in the Baltimore school system, also urged a strong focus on Africa in the curriculum material. He cited treatment of ancient Egypt as one example.
"The fact that this was an African or black civilization, not a Middle Eastern or Asian civilization, should be emphasized," he said.
Morrison also asked the task force to explain if it is developing an Afro-centric curriculum -- one that looks at the world from an African viewpoint -- or a curriculum that incorporates the views of many different cultures.
Molefi K. Asante, a consultant to the task force from the African-American Studies Department at Temple University in Philadelphia, said the panel has developed "a systematic overview of the contributions of African people," which would be knitted into the fabric of the overall curriculum. The result would be a truly multicultural tapestry, he said.
Some speakers greeted that answer with skepticism.
"I know how African-centric programs can be diffused when European elements are mixed in," said Lyle Grandison, who called for independent schools as a remedy.
Task force co-chair Lisa Delpit, an educational theorist at Morgan State University, acknowledged that concern.
Delpit said the key to a revised curriculum is to focus instruction on the children themselves. In predominantly black Baltimore, that requires African-oriented material, she said.
A revised report is expected to be given to the school board by the end of May, said Alice Morgan-Brown, curriculum chief for the city.