NYC Passes Curriculum Changes to Better Reflect Schools’ Majority Non-white Population, Outrage Ensues

New York City schools implemented a curriculum change Wednesday aimed at making school curricula better reflect the populations they serve.

The Department of Education said the new framework dubbed Culturally Responsive Sustaining Education will allow teachers to feature more cultures in the classroom and highlight resources written and developed by traditionally marginalized voices.

It moves away from talking about a tractor trailer or a boat to explain velocity to students and toward examples from students’ lived experiences like using the subway, for example.

“Research shows that when students see themselves and their peers reflected in the books they read and the lessons they learn, academic outcomes improve,” Chief Academic Officer Linda Chen said in a statement to Atlanta Black Star Friday.

Brooklyn teacher and activist Maurice Blackmon told CBS New York the change prompts teachers to think about “what am I teaching, how am I teaching, based on who I’m teaching.”

He said he’s already teaching that way.

“For instance as a social studies teacher that serves a student body that is primarily Latin and Black, I have designed curricula around the hip-hop culture,” Blackmon told CBS New York.

A report released earlier this year from the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice found that while 67 percent of the city’s public school students are black or Latino, about 84 percent of book authors in elementary schools are white.

The coalition, which advocates for culturally responsive education, applauded New York’s move as “parent power” on Twitter Wednesday.

Many Black parents have long welcomed a more diverse approach to school curricula.

“This superintendent is taking his shot and I’m here for it,” mother Monika Shealey said on Twitter Thursday.

New York’s Panel for Educational Policy, a group of mostly mayoral appointees, approved in a unanimous 11-0 vote the chancellor’s call for “culturally responsive” education, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Robert Osborne, a Manhattan parent at the meeting the Journal covered, said his son is mixed-race and it was “important for him to read books about people who look and sound like him. To not hear that means he only hears from the dominant culture.”

But some parents worry their children will be overlooked in the new push.

“I think it’s just wrong. I think it’s misguided,” parent Yiatin Chu told CBS New York.

As the meeting in New York’s Chinatown continued, the question of which groups were included in these changes arose, and parent Chu did not like what he was hearing, CBS New York reported. “The Asian community, specifically the Chinese community, is one of the poorest communities in New York City and I’m disgusted that the mayor treats our group this way — aligning us with white privilege,” Chu said.

Another question from the crowd was — will the plan take away from important subjects like reading and math.

Natasha Capers, the director of the NYC Coalition for Education Justice, took that one.

“Absolutely not… Every culture has had math, every culture has contributed to technology,” she said. “Why don’t we acknowledge that?”

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