Black History: A Yearlong Lesson; Maryland Touts Expanded, Inclusive Curriculum

Article excerpt

Byline: Tarron Lively, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Lessons about inventor George Washington Carver or slave rebellion leader Nat Turner no longer will be relegated to the 28 days of February - or to black history classes - in Maryland public schools, but will shape the foundation of an expansive new curriculum.

Students will learn about blacks' contributions to society in a variety of classes - such as science, music, language arts and American history - in a new, year-round curriculum called "An African American Journey," state school officials said yesterday.

For example, the lives of jazz and blues artists Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith and Louis Armstrong will be featured in music classes, in which students will compose their own blues songs.

"Indeed, the challenge was quite awesome, but it's the very first time in the nation's history such a program has been implemented," said Charles Christian, a University of Maryland professor who led the committee that wrote the curriculum. "It's significant, and Maryland will become a model for other states throughout the country."

State schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick said the 41-lesson program - which deals with work, family, community, arts and enlightenment of black culture - is a multiyear, multicourse study of black history from the Colonial period to the present.

Teachers in 118 public elementary and middle schools already have begun instructing students about the experiences and accomplishments of black Americans.

Next fall, the curriculum will be implemented in all state elementary and middle schools, along with a pilot program for high-school students.

"It's very exciting," Mrs. Grasmick said. "It's an unprecedented initiative that provides children with information that has been missing in their curriculums. It will expose the children to the contributions and cultures of African-Americans, specifically focusing on Maryland.

"It will not be just on the more famous figures, but also, for instance, the watermen on the Eastern Shore or Eubie Blake, the ragtime composer from Baltimore. …