American Students Lack Awareness About the Civil Rights Movement

November 17, 2011

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. mediocre (adj.) [mee-dee-oh-ker] – average but not very good
Example: Many viewers did not like the mediocre dance show.

2. tackle (v.) [tak-uhl] – to engage or deal with
Example: The meeting ended after we had tackled all the important matters.

3. boycott (n.) [boi-kot] – the act of refusing to use, buy or deal with something as an expression of protest or disfavor
Example: Employees organized a boycott to express their disagreement with the new policy.

4. rely (v.) [ri-lahy] – to depend or need
Example: Children rely on their parents for support.

5. chronological (adj.) [kron-l-oj-i-kuhl] – arranged in order of time of occurrence
Example: The policeman asked the victim to tell her story in chronological order.

Read the text below.

A report by the Southern Poverty Law Center has revealed that civil rights history is often ignored in academic standards set by most US states. The result is mediocre knowledge of many American students on the civil rights movement.

Civil Rights history covers the period between 1950 and 1980, in which African Americans fought to have equal rights, particularly in education, with the rest of US citizens.

The report assessed each state based on how its schools’ standards tackle the civil rights movement. Thirty-five states got failing marks because their standards only covered a little or nothing about the movement. On the other hand, eight of the 12 states that passed are Southern states where protests and boycotts took place during the movement’s peak years. Alabama, Florida, and New York were given As because these states’ teaching requirements include teaching the topic in detail.

Fritz Fischer, chairman of the National Council for History Education, criticized the findings because they relied on state standards that are unclear. In addition, in some states, such as Colorado, laws leave local school districts in charge of curriculum. Thus, some schools provide sufficient attention to the topic despite the state standards.

Poverty Law Center director Maureen Costello added that teachers often lack enough time to discuss the events after World War II in America because of the chronological presentation of US history, in which the civil rights movement is usually presented last.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

·         How should schools or teachers encourage students to be more interested in history?
·         What subject areas do you think schools need to focus on? Why?

Discussion B

·         Do schools in your country teach world history?
·         What are the advantages of knowing other countries’ history?

November 17, 2011