Contentious Curricula: Afrocentrism and Creationism in American Public Schools

By Amy J. Binder | Go to book overview

Two
The Challengers

BEFORE DESCRIBING the specifics of how Afrocentrists and creationists made out in their challenges in the seven public school systems, we should know more about the history of these two groups. In this chapter, I describe the social, cultural, and political characteristics of those who made up Afrocentrism’s and creationism’s constituencies; the kinds of identities that adherents crafted in these efforts; and the kinds of claims activists drew upon from the cultural landscape and from past struggles in schools. I set out to describe, through this context, what Afrocentrists’ and creationists’ goals were for their children’s education and for society’s betterment. For roughly the first half of this chapter, I will refrain from describing the seven actual conflicts from 1980 to 2000 that I studied and will delve, instead, into a description of each of the challengers as a type (Afrocentric and creationist). Although this general picture of Afrocentrists and creationists gloss over the particulars in each case of local struggle, the overall portraits will provide a context for the challenges that occurred from coast to coast.

Following this historical overview of the two challenges, I will describe my reasons for selecting the seven cases and the ways in which I chose to collect and analyze data for them.


Afrocentrism: An Essentialist Formulation of Race

People who identify as Afrocentric—and about 25 percent of the AfricanAmerican population sees itself in common cause with Afrocentrism’s descriptions of a problem and its solutions—perceive the world as filled with racism, injustice, and dishonesty surrounding matters of race and equality.1 Where many citizens of the United States take pride in their nation’s stated ideals and see a clear connection between the country’s principles of democracy and their own everyday lives, Afrocentrists see only hypocrisy in the nation’s position on race and the actions it has taken in its name. Afrocentrists fault the United States for making empty promises about equal opportunity for all people, and they have sickened over what they understand as America’s propensity always to resist the path to greater freedom, equality, and opportunity for its African American citizenry.

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