Staff, students react to limited curriculum featuring works, accomplishments of black Americans

Last year the Oscars faced a wide round of criticism over the lack of representation from black artists, and with Black History month, some district staff and students are viewing the current curricular options in Cedar Falls through the same lens.

“I think these voices are essential to have in a classroom. If I don’t have books that show different cultural experiences, I feel like I am selling my students short. Reading is one of the primary ways students understand the world, and to ignore voices is to silence them,” Peet ninth grade English teacher Nate Norby said.

While Norby said he wished that the curriculum included more material written by or featuring African-American voices, he noted he does teach some work written by black authors. “This is my first year at Peet, but I plan to use some of [Langston] Hughes’ poetry,” he said,“and I have taught Maya Angelou in the past and will include some of her poetry.”

Since there isn’t enough literature taught in the curriculum written by or featuring a strong black character, Norby offered a few examples students may enjoy reading.

“Kwama Alexander is a black author who focuses on sports. I have had multiple students who have read ‘Crossover’ and his other book ‘Booked,’” Norby said. “‘All American Boys’ is is cowritten by a black and a white author and alternates between the experiences of a black teenager and a white teenager. It won the Coretta Scott King award.”

Along with his book recommendations, Norby offered his opinion on Black History Month. “I don’t like that there is only an emphasis in February on black voices because they are important all year long. I understand that it is Black History Month, but I help students find good books any time of the year,” Norby said.

Peet freshman Kacia Brown agreed with Norby and said that this is a topic that needs to not only to be discussed more in English, but also other classes throughout her day. “It hasn’t been addressed in any of my classes at all, and I think that it should be addressed in history and even English to talk about reading more books by African American authors,” Brown said. “It affects me because that’s my roots, and it’s fun to learn about some of the great people that made things happen for us.”

Brown said that if she was a teacher, she would like to cut out a couple of days or even a week in her schedule to really focus on what Black History Month means. She would talk about people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.

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