by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
On the website promoting Heritage Calendar 2014, AT&T posted nearly 70 lesson plans, developed by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, that celebrate the “lives and experiences of African Americans in the State.”
The lesson plans span most major subjects and grades. Several of the lessons are excellent. Teachers and students would be well served by incorporating a number of them into the curriculum.
(And for those who care, they’re even aligned to the Common Core and North Carolina Essential Standards!)
The lesson that caught my eye was one honoring former superintendent of the Wake County Schools Dr. Bob Bridges,. The week-long lesson was designed to be use in an eighth-grade social studies classroom. The following is the “Lesson Focus” stated in the document:
Dr. Bridges was Superintendent of Wake County Public Schools from 1984 to 1989, a time when the policy of busing to achieve racial balance was being questioned in court throughout the state. A new diversity policy was put in place in 2000 that would balance schools according to family income and academic achievement instead of by race. Then in March, 2010 the Wake County Board of Education voted to move away from its long standing diversity policy in favor of community-based assignments. The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP organized a movement to protest community-based assignments. This lesson focuses on diversity: its pros and cons, its recent history in NC, and strategies for achieving diversity in our schools.
All three of the suggested readings came from busing supporters – a 2002 Century Foundation essay by Todd Silberman, a 2010 article published in the News & Observer, and text of a speech delivered by NC NAACP president William Barber.
Barber’s speech is pointed, to say the least. For example, he declares,
First, the use of code words like ‘neighborhood schools’ and ‘busing’ is the old “N-word” politics cleaned up with euphemisms taken directly out of Richard Nixon’s southern strategy play book. Stir up old racial fears.
I would have more respect of the opponents of diversity if they would just openly say they want segregated schools. They don’t want their children around certain other children based on race or class. Put it out there straight, rather than using code words.
The lesson does not identify texts written by those who opposed the busing policy or objected to Barber’s characterization of them or their motives.
I do not object to the idea behind the lesson, although I am not sure it is age appropriate. Regardless, if the authors of the lesson truly wanted students to assess “the pros and cons of diversity in schools,” then they should have presented the Wake County busing debate in a fair and equitable manner. This lesson fails to do so.