African-Centered Education: An Approach to Schooling for Social Justice for African American Students
Marks, Jay B., Tonso, Karen L., Education
The purpose of this essay is to investigate the effect that public "schooling" has on the "education" of African Americans, and to argue for the implementation of African-centered curriculum and instruction for African American students. This investigation will begin by examining culturally deprived educations offered to African American students in public schools, and how this education, or lack thereof, has served to perpetuate the oppression of this population of students. According to Michael Porter (1997, p. iv), America's educational system promotes a "system-maintaining curriculum, which virtually guarantees the oppressed remain oppressed and the oppressors remain oppressors." The oppressors that Porter speaks of in this context are elite Whites who all but dictate public education in this country, and among the oppressed are African American students who are subjected to such a dictatorship. Additionally, an analysis of the melting-pot theory will be conducted to determine how a mono-cultural theory has contributed to the proliferation and maintenance of racism and oppression of African American students in contemporary public education.
Secondly, in establishing the case for the employment of African-centered curriculum and instruction for educating African American students, this work will lay out a theory of social justice (equal educational opportunity) appropriate to modern public educational practices used with African American students. We rely heavily on the work of Kenneth Howe and Amy Gutmann whose theories critique the current social order and suggest ways to promote social justice in education for all of America's children. In particular, their call for a strong form of participation will serve as the impetus behind the justification for an African-centered education for African American students. Third and finally, this paper will examine the theory of African-centered education as a plausible and necessary solution to combat the existing miseducation of African American students. Here, the concept of African-centered education will be explained to provide the reader with insights into the tenets of what to many may seem a controversial approach to educating African American children.
OPPRESSION AND "MELTING POT" THEORIES
First and foremost, we hope to diminish oppression in public education. The term "oppression" has been used to describe the education of African American students in the public sector. We borrow Iris Marion Young's (1990) five forms of oppression: exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence. According to Kenneth Howe (1997, p. 70):
Exploitation, marginalization, and powerlessness are forms of oppression associated with different effects of the economic system; cultural imperialism is a form of oppression associated with the imposition of the cultural meanings of the dominant group on all groups; and violence is a form of oppression associated with the attitudes and practices that cultural imperialism sanctions.
This essay will examine two ways in which the American public education system functions as an oppressor of African American students: promoting assimilation and melting-pot values (cultural imperialism) and the annihilation of social justice by providing students with unequal educational opportunities, especially unequal educational outcomes (marginalization and powerlessness).
Cultural imperialism is used in the education of African Americans students as a form of oppression to perpetuate cultural assimilation and authority. The melting-pot theory posited by proponents like Hirsch, Schlesinger, and Ravitch encourages the assimilation of "minority" groups into the majority or dominant group and is antithetical to an African-centered approach. For instance, Arthur Schlesinger charges that African-centered education is un-American and promotes the teaching of inaccurate history and distorted facts from a different cultural viewpoint (Kenyatta, 1998, p. …