A controversial new state panel will determine whether New York schoolchildren are taught enough about the “physical and psychological terrorism” against Africans in the slave trade—and then recommend changes to text books and curricula.
The Amistad Commission, named after the slave ship that was bravely commandeered by its unwilling passengers, could also recommend state-sponsored educational programs on racism and training for teachers.
The panel, which will consist of 19 politically appointed unpaid members who need not be academics, was approved by the Legislature and signed into law last week by Gov. Pataki.
“Whatever we’re doing in our school system right now to teach slavery is not enough,” said Assemblyman Keith Wright (D-Manhattan), who championed the bill. “It’s America’s deep, dark secret, and for too long, it’s been swept under the rug.”
Michael Meyers, executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, called the creation of the panel “sheer racial breast-beating.”
“I think it’s errant nonsense to trust curriculum matters to a blue-ribbon panel of racial grievance,” Meyers said. “You cannot legislate these matters. Educators have to make these decisions.”