A member of Johnston Parents for Equity and Anti-Racism said she hopes the program can include black history — and black joy — year-round, not just in February.
DES MOINES, Iowa — Despite more than 40 years of Black History Month celebrations, teachers still face challenges integrating it into their curriculum, and parents of color still fight for a more wide range of black experiences is reflected.
Mike Beranek, president of the Iowa State Education Association (ISEA), hopes districts will implement these lessons beyond February.
“There are so many elements to the history of black culture in the United States that it can permeate all areas of the curriculum, throughout the school year,” Beranek said.
Tiara Mays, a member of Johnston’s Parent for Equity Against Racism, echoes that statement.
“Black history is 365 days a year,” Mays said.
Tiara hopes educators will branch out and explore other black figures that are less commonly taught in schools.
“I want them to learn more and more from people outside of Martin Luther King Rosa Parks, talking about our first black president, our current vice president, going deeper,” Mays said.
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Beranek said educators have also faced challenges, referring to an Iowa law passed in June banning schools from teaching critical race theory.
“Some people would like to restrict the scope of what we teach in our classrooms, but that’s not good,” he said. “It’s just presenting one opinion or another. And because our classrooms are full of all kinds of diverse cultures and they come from all walks of life, we need to make sure that we honor everyone who finds themselves in this piece.”
Mays said this type of legislation prevents children from learning all there is to know about black American history.
“Our teachers are continually threatened with, you know, going to jail or being fined,” Mays said. “It’s a barrier to what our kids are learning. It’s a direct flow.”
She worries that teachers feel like they can’t talk about certain topics.
“So as long as things happen in the Capitol where our teachers feel like they can’t talk and teach our kids in a safe space for them personally, our kids will continue to get a surface education,” Mays said.
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