Phila. School Mandate: African History

Susan Snyder, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 9

In what could be a unique move nationally, the Philadelphia School District will require every high school student to take a separate course in African and African American history to graduate, beginning with this September’s freshman class.

Both national and local officials said yesterday that they knew of no other district requiring such a course, particularly one focused on African history, for graduation.

The School Reform Commission voted unanimously in February to offer courses in both areas at every high school, and said it would consider making one or both courses a graduation requirement.

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But the move already has raised the ire of some parents, including Miriam Foltz, president of the Home and School Association at Baldi Middle School in the Northeast, . “Are they seriously telling us that our kids won’t graduate without this course? What an insult!

“There are other races in this city,” Foltz said. “There are other cultures that will be very offended by this. How can you just mandate a course like this?”

District officials acknowledged that it would be better to have courses that adequately reflected all cultures, but that African and African American history for too long had been neglected.

“This isn’t about being politically correct. It’s about being comprehensive,” said Paul Vallas, the district’s chief executive officer. “We have a whole continent that has been absent from most of our textbooks.”

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