Why Black History Should be Taught in Schools

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The British memorialise things well – we have world-famous art museums, technologically-advanced science museums and military history exhibitions; the curriculum in schools is said to be forward-thinking and comprehensive. So why is it that Black history is being forgotten?  Or are we choosing to forget it? 

The murder of George Floyd and the subsequent global Black Lives Matter protests have seen a fresh demand for curriculums to be decolonised, targeting the whitewashing that is prevalent in all levels of academia. Schools in particular have had pressure put on them to study the work of Black authors, educate children on Black culture and, most importantly, teach Black history.

There are numerous reasons why this is not only crucial, but also beneficial. Racism is learned and taught, not inherited – by educating children on Black history it can be hoped that society will learn to recognise and celebrate the contribution black lives have made to the progression of our country, rather than be ignorant or ignore it. 

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Currently, the education system is failing young people, particularly those from minority ethnic backgrounds who are not being taught about their history within Britain, taking away from their sense of identity and belonging.

To fully appreciate the role Black lives have had in Britain, we must overhaul the current imperialist agenda, and move away from the idea that Black history can be taught for one month of the year in a tokenistic gesture to satisfy diversity quotas. We must cultivate a deeper understanding of how nuanced history is – recognising the impacts of European colonialists, celebrating the contributions of black individuals to technological and social developments, but also recognise where failures have occurred so that we can learn from them. Teaching Black history year-round sends a message that it is not a part of our past that can be overlooked or ignored, nor is it a ‘separate body’ of information, but rather a key part of the fabric that has built our society and should be taught as such.

Moreover, the Macpherson Report produced in 1994 found that if cultural diversity within the curriculum was improved, racism within schools would lessen. The government has also been advised to ‘ensure history lessons are relevant to all young people in Britain’ as a remedy to the underachievement and disaffection currently experienced by young Black people. 

There is clearly a pressing and very real need for change to be made to our national history curriculum.

What’s important is that we do not forget the gravity of this matter in the ever-present whirl of fast-journalism and 24-hour news. Let George Floyd’s death be a flashpoint in modern history – a time when, as a society we decided to champion diversity and inclusion, teaching children about how their past is shaping their present, rather than letting it pass us by.