Ala. gets "A" on teaching Civil Rights movement

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Southern Poverty Law Center says that despite being a defining moment in U.S. history, most states fail when it comes to teaching the Civil Rights movement to students.

For Alabama, however, that's not the case. SPLC gives Alabama an "A" and calls the state the best in the nation when it comes to teaching the subject.

The study, Teaching the Movement: The State of Civil Rights Education in the United States 2011, examined state standards and curriculum requirements related to the study of the modern civil rights movement. All 50 states and the District of Columbia were included in the study, conducted by the SPLC's Teaching Tolerance program.

The study compared the requirements in state standards to a body of knowledge that reflects what civil rights historians and educators consider core information about the civil rights movement.

SPLC said 35 states received grades of "F." Sixteen states, where local officials set specific policies and requirements for their school districts, have no requirements at all for teaching about the movement.

Alabama was graded with an "A" because it covered at least 60 percent of the recommended content. Alabama scored 70 percent. It was joined by Florida and New York as the only three states to get the top score, but SPLC said even these states "can do more to ensure that students have a comprehensive understanding of the civil rights movement..."

SPLC officials said part of the reason why many states don't make the subject a priority is because of geography. The further one travels from the South, the smaller the African American population. That generally leads to less importance placed on the topic.


"For too many students their civil rights education boils down to two people and four words: Rosa Parks, Dr. King and 'I have a dream,'" said Maureen Costello, Teaching Tolerance director. "When 43 states adopted Common Core Standards in English and math, they affirmed that rigorous standards were necessary for achievement. By having weak or non-existent standards for history, particularly for the civil rights movement, they are saying loud and clear that it isn't something students should learn."

"An educated populace must be taught basics about American history," said civil rights activist Julian Bond, a member of the SPLC board of directors. "One of these basics is the civil rights movement, a nonviolent revolution as important as the first American Revolution. It is a history that continues to shape the America we all live in today."

INFORMATION SOURCE: Southern Poverty Law Center

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