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Saturday May 28th

American Indian groups protest curriculum shift

Draft plan cut pre-1877 history

The state is revising an education reform plan after an early draft caused outrage among American Indian communities.

The State Board of Education’s first draft of the Accountability and Curriculum Reform Effort included a proposal to remove pre-colonial history education from the U.S. History course requirements at the high school level.

The American Indian community saw this as removing all mention of their history and resisted the act.

The initial proposals drafted by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction were not meant to be final, said Linda Fuller, spokeswoman for the department.

“This is like that game when someone whispers in someone’s ear,” Fuller said, adding that the board was open to suggestions and revision.

The new curriculum will not be implemented until the 2013 school year, she said.

Complaints from high school history teachers spurred the reform of the current curriculum. They said they did not have enough course time to really delve into the material, Fuller said.

“The curriculum is a mile long, an inch thick,” she said.

The proposed change was to teach less history at the high school level, leaving events before 1877 to be covered in elementary school, she said.

The reaction from the American Indian population has been generally negative.

“Frankly, I think it’s stupid,” said Stanley Knick, director of the Native American Resource Center at UNC-Pembroke.

“It’s a slap in the face for the 100,000 American Indians who still live here — it’s absurd.”

The department is now looking for other ways to meet teachers’ demands without angering the communities.

One likely revision would call for splitting the U.S. History class into two courses so high school teachers can both cover pre-colonial times and have more opportunity to go in-depth with the material, Fuller said.

Some in the American Indian community said they are tired of their history being modified at a moment’s notice.

“Too often American Indian people have been defined by a stroke of a pen, written in or written out,” said Ruth Woods, diversity professor at UNC-Greensboro and of American Indian descent herself.

The impact would likely be profound on the state’s American Indian population, said Kenneth Clark, cultural enrichment specialist at the Indian Education Resource Center in Pembroke.

One of the arguments for focussing less on pre-colonial history has been the opportunity to focus more on world history.

“If you don’t understand your own culture and if you don’t understand the diversity of cultures where you live, how will you be ready for global markets?” Woods said.

Danny Bell, program assistant for the American Studies department at UNC-Chapel Hill, said interest in American Indian Studies is growing.

“It’s important that we incorporate what happens before that time,” he said. “How do we keep it from being lost in the shuffle?”

Contact the State & National Editor at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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