Grades 6-12: Teaching the Civil Rights Movement

Curriculum Review, November 2011 | Go to article overview

Grades 6-12: Teaching the Civil Rights Movement


One of the defining events In U.S. history is the civil rights movement, but a recent study shows that more than half of the country's states fail in teaching students about it.

Teaching the Movement: The State of Civil Rights Education in the United States 201! is a first-of-its-kind study conducted by the Southern Policy Law Center (SPLC). Through this study, the SPLC examined state standards and curriculum requirements related to the study of the modern U.S. civil rights movement for all 50 states and Washington, D.C. It is a project of the SPLC's Teaching Tolerance program.

The study compares these state requirements to a body of knowledge that reflects what civil rights historians and educators consider core and significant information about the movement. Here's what they found:

* Thirty five states received a grade of ''F."

* Sixteen of these states have no requirements at all about teaching the movement.

* Only three states received an "A" - New York, Florida and Alabama - and even these states have room for improvement,

* A general trend emerged: the further away from the South and the smaller the African American population in an area, the less attention was paid to the civil rights movement.

"For too many students their civil rights education boils down to two people and four words: Rosa Parks, Dr, King and 'I have a dream,'" said Maureen Costello, SPLC's Teaching Tolerance director "When 43 states adopted Common Core Standards in English and math, they affirmed that rigorous standards were necessary for achievement. By having weak or non-existent standards for history, particularly for the civil rights movement, they are saying loud and clear that it isn't something students need learn" (PR Newswire 9/28/11). …

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