It is frequently expounded that to prevent mistakes a person must look to one’s past. Mistakes are not normally avoided however. Instead, an understanding of self takes hold as one reviews events of the past. Every February for over ten years, public school students review past events of African-American history. But is the review enough to have a life changing impact?
Throughout the month of February Brooklyn public teachers incorporated African-American history in their lesson plans. Students learn about Rev. Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. They learn about Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and other prominent African-American leaders. In African-American communities public schools have black-history month celebrations performed by students. But is this empowering the quality of life of students or escalating their appreciation for their heritage?
When asked about what was learned during black history month most students talked about the well known prominent leaders, very few knew about the African-American who did the first open heart surgery. Or, about the African-American inventor who extracted many products from the peanut. Today many students are not aware of the many black inventors who contributed extensively to American society, many of which are taken for granted.
At the end of black history month the questions becomes what have students learned in public schools that will foster their historical awareness? In conversations with various students it was ascertained their knowledge of the affluent history of African-Americans came from within their churches, communities and from self education; it seldom manifested from the classroom.