For Black students in America, having a same-race social studies teacher is extremely rare. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), social studies teachers make up just 7% of the entire teacher workforce. And of all social studies teachers, roughly 94% are White (54% men and 40% women). Just 3% of America’s social studies teachers are Black men. And only 3% are Black women. In fact, the average social studies teacher is a White male in his mid-40s despite the fact that men only make up 23% of all teachers. As a result, only 1 to 2 lessons or 8–9% of total US History class time is devoted to Black history.
When establishing the American education system, civic leaders wanted students to develop an understanding of patriotism and nationalistic values by encouraging instruction that would promote civic and moral training. Unfortunately, civics education has always been taught and received differently by Black students based upon the race and knowledge of their teachers. And as a result of policies such as the No Child Left Behind Act, required social studies courses in most states have dwindled overtime making it even more difficult for Black students to receive an adequate or meaningful civics education.
This is evident when reviewing recent history, civics, and geography scores released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. For Black students, the outcomes were alarming. Not only did Black students post the lowest scores of any demographic group, their overall scores declined between 2014 and 2018 and the White/Black achievement gap increased. Given the tumultuous state of racial affairs America has embarked upon once again, now is the time for federal and state policy makers to require the incorporation of social justice and Black History lessons into social studies curriculums. As secondary English teacher Jasmine Lane recently wrote, “a high graduation rate is meaningless when our graduates enter the world without a fundamental grasp of the tools and knowledge necessary for full participation in life and citizenship”. In order to ensure all students leave school prepared to complete their moral and civic duties, more must be done immediately to increase the number of Black social studies teachers, especially Black men.
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