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Prince George’s County Board of Education wants to change how Black history is taught in public schools

The Prince George’s County Board of Education’s vice chair is calling on the school system to change the way it teaches Black history in the curriculum.

Vice Chair Edward Burroughs III wrote a letter last week to the CEO of Prince George’s County Public Schools Monica Goldson requesting a change.

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Alvin Thornton, chairman of the Board of Education, is in support of the letter but is more focused on the process of getting these changes to happen and funding.

Thornton wants the community to know their history and that they have been offering a Black history course but now the board wants more in-depth and accurate teaching.

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“This letter reminds me of discussions we had in the ’80s. Lots of people don’t know that I and many others forced a Black history course on the board back in the 1980s,” Thornton said. “I was hurt that people don’t know about this and we had this course.”

When the course was implemented there was great interest, then STEM came around and took a lot of interest away from the Black history course, according to Thornton.

Thornton believes there is no opposition to the improvement of teaching Black history on either side. Goldson didn’t respond to a request for comment.

“No one is resisting, this isn’t Prince George’s County of 1970 where you have a white non-diverse board and governing system that is resisting African-American courses,” Thornton said. “We have to say to the community and parents to take the course and take advantage of it, like we do STEM.”

In the letter, Burroughs recommends the board allocate funds to “local HBCUs such as Howard University, Morgan State University, or Bowie State University to aid current classroom based educators in the curriculum writing process.”

Raaheela Ahmed, board member for District 5, is glad that Burroughs brought up the discussions the board has often in a more formal and direct way to the superintendent.

Ahmed was raised in the Prince George’s County school system and as a non-Black student she remembers she didn’t see or know about what Black students were going through.

“It is not OK to live in a society where you get only one side of the story and it is really important for our community and country’s future to be aware of multiple different perspectives,” Ahmed said. “We need to better understand each other, especially when going through trials like we are now. This is just exposing that need more.”

Every class needs to have a multicultural aspect to it, according to Ahmed.

Ahmed is also apart of the Policy and Governance Committee, which recently got the board to pass civic engagement days for students. This allows students to have excused absences if they are attending marches or demonstrations to support social justice issues that matter to them.

Joshua Omolola, student member of the board, feels like the teaching of Black history has been sanitized and that they only learn about peaceful leaders.

“We haven’t learned about the more radical groups, whether it be Malcom X or the Black Panthers, these are leaders that are prominent in our communities that we don’t hear about,” Omolola said. “We have events in our history that weren’t taught, Juneteenth and the Black Wall Street are examples of that. We need to be taught these things because they helped contribute to the movement that we are still fighting in 2020.”

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Omolola, who just graduated from Parkdale High School and will attend Hofstra University, wants the curriculum to be updated and to incorporate more recent events that the Black community is dealing with today. He had a history teacher that taught more than what the curriculum requires and is thankful for that.

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