Another February is here.
We all know what that means.
Schools across the country either dust off their annual Black History Month routine, or they scramble to create something a “little bit different than last year”. This month is undeniably important. The way it is utilized in schools, however, is trivial to say the least. We’re sitting at the front of the bus now, but the wheels just keep spinning.
It doesn’t have to be like this though. If educators were truly invested in Black History Month, and the school actively got behind this celebration of Black life, students would benefit. I guess that is my DJ Khaled “major key alert”: schools must be honestly invested in Black History Month in order for BHM to make an impact on its students.
But here is where we reach a philosophical circulation surrounding Black History Month. If schools were actually invested in Black History Month then the teaching about Black history and Black culture would exist outside of the 28 days in February, wouldn’t it?
I know this much from my first few years of teaching. When the teacher is engaged in something, the students are likely to be interested in said thing. This is even more valid for elementary students. Conversely, if a teacher approaches a subject, topic, or activity with the mentality that the task is simply something to be “checked off”, then students will approach that topic with an unengaged mentality. Not something to actually engage in, but rather just another thing to do. Martin Luther King helped get black people equality, Rosa Parks sat at the front of the bus and stood up for herself, Black people were once slaves. Check, check and check. Back to your regularly scheduled programming. Everyone is appeased.
We can’t get rid of Black History Month, because learning about monumental and inspiring Black people and the hardships they had to endure and overcome is valuable. Not just to the Black students in the class. But to everyone. As it stands right now, Black History Month is better than nothing. And outside of February, nothing about Black history seems to be important in school. Without Black History Month, students would be hard pressed to name more than five important Black figures that do or did more than dribble a basketball or rhyme dope lyrics. So the task then becomes teaching Black History Month in schools beyond a “check off” of activity and engaging with Black culture and its history in a way that is beyond superficial tidbits of information.
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