Pa. receives poor mark for not mandating curricula about civil rights movement
by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks
In the year that the Brown v. Board of Education decision turns 60, a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center says that states too often omit the civil rights movement from officially mandated school curricula.
In "Teaching the Movement 2014: The State of Civil Rights Education in the United States," the center has assigned grades to each state based on the depth and breadth of their coverage of the subject.
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware each received a "D."
To be clear, these grades aren't based on what potentially ends up being taught in classrooms. Instead, it gauges how much value the state's department of education puts on teaching the content.
"It's very hard to know what people are doing in classrooms," said Maureen Costello, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance project. "What we were looking at is: What are the messages that states are sending to teachers and students about the emphasis that they put on civil rights.'"
In keeping with the trend of teaching skills, not content, Pennsylvania and Delaware provide no specifics on exactly what history needs to be taught.
New Jersey proscribes lessons on the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in its mandated curriculum, but demands no greater context of the genesis of the grassroots movement around him.
"We think the resources leave too much in the hands of individual teachers, schools and districts," said Costello. "We do encourage states to step up to the plate and make their expectations about what should be taught clearer. ... You can't apply those skills in a vacuum."