How Much is Enough?
Back on September 13, in a post titled “Eyes on the Prize,” I said that I was embarrassed by how little I knew at that time about the Civil Rights Movement. Ever since our trip ended I’ve been wondering about the teaching of the Civil Rights Movement in our schools. I’ve spoken with some middle school and high school history teachers to find out what they teach. What I’ve heard from them is that “not much” of this history is taught. (“There is so much other material to cover.”) They tell me that the major events are presented, and MLK’s basic beliefs and actions are presented, but not in any depth. Today I consulted the New York State curriculum guidelines for the teaching of history in New York State here and here. My first impression is that there is much too little emphasis given to this period of our recent history. The events, the underlying social tensions, and the victories as well as the unresolved issues are incredibly important to anyone who wants a good understanding of our culture today. Judging by what I’m seeing, it is beginning to look to me as if today’s young people may know just as little as I did, or even less than I did before my travels. So, with that perspective in mind, I am now wondering what can be done about this. Is it important for today’s young people to have a thorough knowledge of this history?