By Juliana Valencia
There soon could be a new social studies option for students in D.C. public and charter schools.
Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie introduced a bill last week to implement an African-American and cultural studies course in all high schools by fall 2022. The course would be counted as part of the promotion requirements toward graduation.
“It’s important, I think, to make sure that students of color — in particular black students — feel more relevant when they study history in high school,” the Howard University alumnus said. “I think this would be an important component of being able to help facilitate that.”
The legislation would require the D.C. Mayor’s Office on African American Affairs and the Commission on African American Affairs to collaborate with the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education for all public and charter high schools in the District.
Since the bill was co-introduced with all council members, McDuffie said he is hopeful the bill will receive a hearing soon and it will pass.
Howard University Department of Afro American Studies Chair Dr. Greg Carr is one of the people who will help with developing the curriculum.
“I don’t think there’s any more important projects going on right now in a high school I can think of anywhere in the country,” he said.
The professor created a similar curriculum for high school students in Philadelphia 15 years ago.
Some students won’t have to wait until the fall of 2022 for a course like this. Dunbar High School, one of the first public high schools for African-Americans, started the Academy of Black Studies this year. The academy hopes to advance students’ knowledge of black diaspora studies while creating a community of critically thinking scholars.
“If I didn’t have the Black Studies Academy, I wouldn’t know much about who I was,” Faith Conyers said. It “plays a big role in self-identity.”
The Dunbar junior said her learning experience through the academy helped her decide to attend a historically black university where she one day hopes to pursue journalism.
Carr said the new academy provides a road map for the proposed new course.
“That will not only be attractive to students, but will then entice them to link what they know with what they don’t know,” he said.
Before this course can be an option in schools, the bill needs to pass. There will be public hearings and an opportunity for people to voice their opinions before the bill is voted on.