March 1, 2020
When Lara* asked me to write a short Blog about Black History Month from the perspective of a parent, my first thought was about an exercise I do in my classes. From my pre-service days teaching middle school through graduate students, I have done an activity in which students create a box that highlights their demographic stats (age, race, gender, LGBTQ+, social class, religion, and education). Then they are asked to choose one they most identify with and least identify with, and one they perceive others to identify the most and least as. It is always hard to decouple our identities. As a father of an 8-year-old and a 2.5-year-old, I have only been a “dad” for under 10 years. I have been an educator since the late 1990s. It’s hard to only see things as a father or parent.
Black History Month began as a weeklong celebration by Carter G. Woodson in the 1920s. Since then it has blossomed into a month-long celebration every February. How people “celebrate” Black history depends on many things. Many of us can cite excellent examples of what positive activities are for Black History Month. We can also identify activities that have missed the mark and been horrific; such as only mentioning slavery and ending the discussion of Black history with the death of Martin Luther King. Black history, along with so many other histories, is US history.
The goal of any school and school district should be to make sure that their students both see themselves in the curriculum and learn about others who are different from them. Noted educational expert Pedro Noguera and others have highlighted in their work that diversity has been shown to improve academic and social outcomes for students and improve workplace productivity. As the world gets increasingly smaller and smaller, it is important to learn about, not obtain acceptance of, diversity. For teachers, students and yes, the first teachers, parents, to expose their young impressionable children to a wide range of individuals, events, and milestones.
Black history month, along with so many other months in which we celebrate differences (e.g., Women’s history month in March), should be seen as opportunities for growth and learning, not fear and trepidation. Hopefully, we all agree that diversity is important. Important enough for us to make a meaningful commitment for the 2020-2021 school year to be more inclusive in all our schools when it comes to lessons that do more than just celebrate accomplishments, but rather introduce our students to the mosaic of American history and the meaningful contributions so many have made to this country.
~ Stuart Rhoden, Ph.D.
Dad of two, Hopi Elementary parent, and Instructor – Success Programs at Arizona State University University College