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Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. 1963
Civil rights march on Washington for jobs and justice, 1963
Do you want to fight racism, bigotry and injustice? Would you like to see our country continue to make progress and move forward in the struggle for equal rights and opportunity?  

If you answer "yes," much of that will depend on the education our children are receiving because they are our future. Yet contrary to what you might think—since we have a Martin Luther King Day and Black History Month—schools across the U.S. are failing to teach a key segment of our more recent history, the very civil rights movement of which Dr. King is a symbol.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has issued its report card on how states are doing—and most are doing very poorly.

In this new report, 20 states received grades of “F.” These include five states – Alaska, Iowa, Maine, Oregon and Wyoming – that neither cover the movement in their state standards nor provide resources to teach it. Despite a more nuanced evaluation of state standards and resources in the 2014 report, only three states (Georgia, Louisiana and South Carolina) received a grade of “A.” Seventeen states also improved by one letter grade since the last report.

Despite the national significance of the civil rights movement, many states continue to mistakenly see it as a regional matter or a topic of interest mainly for black students. Generally speaking, the report found that the farther from the South – and the smaller the African-American population – the less attention paid to the movement in schools.

The report, "Teaching the Movement 2014: The State of Civil Rights Education in the United States,"  looks at and evaluates standards and curriculum resources connected to the study and teaching of the modern civil rights movement for the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

You can read the full report here.

Follow me below the fold to see what grade your state received and for ideas about taking action for improvement.

Here's the full scorecard of the states:

Grades for teaching the civil rights movement by state  from the study – Teaching the Movement 2014: The State of Civil Rights Education in the United States
Grades for teaching the civil rights movement by state from the study, "Teaching the Movement 2014: The State of Civil Rights Education in the United States," (SPLC Teaching Tolerance Project)
One of the conclusions from the report stood out for me, so I'll repeat it:
Despite the national significance of the civil rights movement, many states continue to mistakenly see it as a regional matter or a topic of interest mainly for black students. Generally speaking, the report found that the farther from the South – and the smaller the African-American population – the less attention paid to the movement in schools.
I suppose that means that no one—black, brown. red or yellow—should pay any attention to European history and culture. Should I edit the Crusades and numerous world wars out of my brain? This means: If you are "white," forget about any black history or music or art—'cause you won't be interested.

Ludicrous. (Insert unprintable expletives)

In the SPLC report, the foreword is from Julian Bond and the introduction is written by historian Henry Louis Gates Jr., who said:

“Want to have a meaningful ‘conversation about race?’” he writes. “That conversation, to be effective and to last, to become part of the fabric of the national American narrative, must start in elementary school, and continue all the way through graduation from high school. It must do this in the same way that the story of the Mayflower, the Pilgrims, the Puritans, the ‘City Upon a Hill’ and the key, shaping stories and myths about ourselves were formulated for us through the school curriculum.”
I recently wrote a post, Black History is American history: Books you should read. The idea that "only blacks" should learn about the movement or are interested in it should be anathema to anyone who knows that civil rights history was forged out of coalitions between many racial/ethnic/religious groups, and is an essential and ongoing part of the American experience.  

I write about history quite a bit here on Daily Kos, and each time, there are numerous comments from readers—most of whom are white—wishing they had learned this history in school. Same goes for women's history—do we now put on gender-blinders?

Looking at the grade received by my state—New York, which got a "B", but "needs more resources"—I think of all the students I've taught over the last years, most of whom are white, who have asked, "Why didn't we learn this in high school?"  If they feel that they didn't learn much, and New York state got a B, what in Hades could it be like in the states with D's and F's?

book cover Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching
Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching,
published by Teaching for Change and PRRAC
Individual teachers can and do make a difference, and if you are a teacher or know someone who is, please pass on this information. One of the tools I use is Teaching for Change:
An incredible, informative, collection of essays, articles, analysis, interviews, primary documents and interactive & interdisciplinary teaching aids on civil rights, movement building, and what it means for all of the inhabitants of the planet. With sections on education, economic justice, citizenship, and culture, it connects the African-American Civil Rights Movement to Native American, Latina, Asian-American, gay rights, and international struggles; while highlighting the often-ignored roles of women in social justice movements.. Packed into nearly 600 oversize pages are photographs, songs, statements, and work from the likes of such great writers, historians, and activists as Bill Bigelow, James Loewen, June Jordan, Grace Lee Boggs, Herbert Kohl, Bayard Rustin, Rita Dove, Malcolm X, George Jackson, Ward Churchill, Leonard Peltier, Thurgood Marshall, Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Martinez, Sonia Sanchez, Eric Foner, Marcus Garvey, Manning Marable, and dozens more.
Published by Teaching for Change, Putting the Movement Back into Civil Rights Teaching, is recommended by the Zinn Education Project.

Teaching for Change has also established a bookstore, at Busboys and Poets, in Washington DC.  

Busboys and Poets aims to be not just a restaurant, but also a space in which intellectual, cultural, political and social issues can come together for a discussion that benefits everyone. Our bookstore, Busboys and Poets Books, aims to be a space in which literature, politics, society and social justice can be engaged with in a productive and exciting atmosphere.
We need more community resources like this across the U.S. If you have similar independent bookstores promoting multicultural diversity in your area, please let us know in comments.

What can YOU do?

You can take steps to become much more aware of the educational debates and controversies in your state or local area. If your state got an "F" or a low grade,  express your displeasure to your state's elected officials. So much of our political action and discourse is focused on national elections that we often forget that we need to pay closer attention to school boards, state curriculum and standards committees, on who sits on these groups and how they are selected (by appointment or by election).

The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) has a pamphlet showing a state-by-state matrix, giving method of selection, election terms, number of voting members and more.

Other issues around "Who Controls the Curriculum?" are summarized here.

Many different groups can influence the curriculum. These include publishers, teachers, students, parents, administrators, the federal, state, and local governments, colleges and universities, national tests, education commissions and committees, professional organizations, and special interest groups. In recent years, the move toward subject matter standards and statewide testing has added another powerful force influencing what is taught in schools.
This is not just about black history. Right-wing legislatures in states like Arizona have pushed back and banned books, attacking Mexican-American studies. By a vote of 3 to 2, in 2013 the school board in Tuscon vote to un-ban books that had been prohibited.

Membership on these boards is key, and Teapublican activists have worked hard to put themselves in positions to whitewash and sterilize history and substitute religion for science in states across the U.S.

What our kids are taught should not be just a concern for parents and teachers. A well-educated citizenry is our best defense against bigotry, therefore it is an issue that will ultimately affect us all.

Take action. Get involved!

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Apr 06, 2014 at 06:01 AM PDT.

Also republished by Black Kos community, Barriers and Bridges, History for Kossacks, White Privilege Working Group, and Support the Dream Defenders.

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