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CRACK THE CASE, authored by Dr.

Nancy DeFrates-Densch, Northern Illinois University

Black History Month


February is Black History Month. Every year, Hopkins High School uses this as an
opportunity to celebrate African American culture. Inspirational speakers are brought in for at
least two assemblies. Brief historical facts regarding African Americans are incorporated into the
daily announcements. Classes in all content areas focus on the contributions of African
Americans. Students create projects that further explore African American culture. For example,
students in Foods classes re-create traditional African and African American dishes. Art
students create pieces that mimic African art or reflect African American culture. At the end of
the month, an African American culture fair is held to showcase student projects.
In the past, this has been an exciting time of year for studentsa welcome break from the
tedium of the regular curriculum. However, this year things appear to be different. Recent
restructuring of the district has resulted in greater ethnic diversity in the student population.
Overall, this has been a positive thing. However, February is approaching and some students and
parents are grumbling about the celebration of Black History Month. In fact, a group of students
and parents is complaining to the school board about this practice at tonights meeting.
During the opportunity for citizens to address the school board, people speak for and
against the celebration.
Several parents and students speak in support of Hopkins Highs celebration, pointing out
the dearth of African Americans discussed in the regular curriculum and how important it is that
all students be aware of the contributions African Americans have made. In addition, many
students discuss how much they enjoy February because of this celebration.
However, other people dissent:
If we are going to celebrate Black History Month, then I think we should celebrate
Mexican-American History Month, too.
Im Portuguese; I think we deserve a month, too. After all, if it hadnt been for
Portuguese explorers, where would we be today?
Well, Im Irish, and the Irish have certainly made major contributions both to American
culture and to our community. Why isnt there an Irish History Month?
What about us Chinese? Without us, where would the rail system be?
Yeah, and how about Japanese Americans? Why should our kids celebrate Black
History Month, when the only thing about us in the history books is negative? They dont even
mention the internment camps during World War II. This is insane.
The board carefully considers the comments. They later tell those in attendance that they will
not address the issue, as it is a decision that must be made by the faculty at Hopkins High, not one
to be made by the school board. The principal does not want to make this decision alone, so she
establishes a committee to discuss what to do.
1. What are the issues in this case?
2. What do you think of Hopkins High Schools celebration of Black History Month?
Why?
3. Given what students and parents have had to say about the issue, should they
continue the practice? Why or why not?
4. What could be done to ensure that all ethnic groups feel represented in the
curriculum?