Creating a Syllabus that Centers Black History
– by Andrea Adomako, IRT ’14
In James Baldwin’s “A Talk to Teachers” (1963) Baldwin wrote the following:
The paradox of education is precisely this – that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated. The purpose of education…is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions, to say to himself this is black or this is white…to ask questions of the universe, and then learn to live with those questions, is the way he achieves his own identity. But no society is really anxious to have that kind of person around. What societies really, ideally, want is a citizenry which will simply obey the rules of society.
Today, considering the current socio-political environment we live in, Baldwin’s words still ring true. As students are taught to “ask questions of the universe and then learn to live with those questions” Black History has a historical role in inspiring the productive inquiry Baldwin speaks of. In recent years there has been a greater push to consider Black History beyond the month of February. Incorporating Black history year round is an important pedagogical shift that asks educators to elevate the history, events, and individuals that shape Black history both in the United States and globally. This shift begins first and foremost with the syllabus. Whether you are teaching a traditional History, English, or Engineering Course; or if you are teaching within an interdisciplinary field, the syllabus is the place to express and reflect your political and ethical commitments to Black History.
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