Celebrating Black History Month

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In the month of February, the nation honors the achievements of African Americans; their stories and historical accomplishments are worthy of recognition year round. That’s why Pioneer Institute has sponsored events, produced videos, and published opinion pieces informing the public about important leaders and key milestones in the African-American experience, as well as the need for more educational choice options for all children. Pioneer supports school choice and improvements to academic instruction, especially in U.S. history, so all schoolchildren learn about African-Americans’ long struggle for freedom and equal opportunity. Below, we share some highlights from our coverage of seminal figures, topics, and periods such as slavery during the Founding era, the Civil War, and Civil Rights icons such as Fannie Lou Hamer, the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Robert Moses, and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail

As a nation, we have a long way to go to address continued injustices. Persistent academic achievement gaps between African-American students and their white peers threaten to undermine prospects for upward social mobility. To address this disparity, Pioneer has actively promoted education reforms that have proven successful at helping minority students reach their full potential: private and parochial schools, charter public schools, the METCO inter-district school choice program, vocational-technical education, and a menu of school options.

Through events and op-eds placed in regional and national publications, Pioneer has advocated for expanded school choice to give inner-city students a lifeline out of failing public schools. Last month, we produced a feature-length documentary film, “Big Sacrifices, Big Dreams: Ending America’s Bigoted Education Laws,” that seeks to raise public awareness about constitutional barriers in 38 states that block underprivileged children from attending private or parochial schools. Here in Massachusetts, the so-called Know-Nothing amendments prevent more than 100,000 urban families with children in chronically underperforming districts from receiving scholarship vouchers that would provide additional educational alternatives. Repealing these laws would immediately help low-income and minority students. As film narrator and Pioneer school reform advisor Gerard Robinson concludes, “Past bigotries are an unforgivable limitation on our children’s future.” Watch the film below, as well as clips from our events and op-eds:

Video (Click image to watch):

“Big Sacrifices, Big Dreams: Ending America’s Bigoted Education Laws”


Related event videos and commentary: 

Video Highlights from “America in the Age of MLK: Teaching the Civil Rights Movement in Schools” (held on January 15, 2014):

Video Highlights from “A Fire You Can’t Put Out: Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Civil Rights, and School Choices” (held on March 20, 2017): 

Video Highlights from “Civil Rights: Charter Schools & Teacher Unions,” (held on February 26, 2015):

Video Highlights from “The Founders and Slavery: Dr. Howard Dodson” (held on January 28, 2013):

Video: The Time To Act

Related op-eds:

Op-ed: Fannie Lou Hamer: ‘I Am Sick And Tired Of Being Sick And Tired’

By Jamie Gass

October 6 would be the 100th birthday of Fannie Lou Hamer, the black civil rights activist and vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). She made history during Freedom Summer 1964, storming the Magnolia State’s all-white delegation at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Atlantic City.

“I am sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Hamer would later famously say.

Fannie Lou Hamer’s grit in the face of relentless rural poverty and violence in the Jim Crow South make her a heroine whom American schoolchildren should know. But decades of national data show just how little they actually do know about U.S. history, civics, and geography.

History tells us that economic striving, great art, and moral leadership often spring from adversity.

Read this entire op-ed in The Hechinger Report,  WGBH News and The Berkshire Eagle.

 

The Boston Globe op-ed: State should expand METCO 

By Cheryl Brown Henderson and Jim Stergios

THE 50TH anniversary of the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO), which allows about 3,300 Boston and Springfield students to attend school in surrounding districts, provides a good opportunity to take stock of the program and, in doing so, compare it with the intent of the landmark 1954 United States Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education.

In its opinion, the court wrote that education is the “most important function of state and local governments. . . . It is doubtful that any child can be reasonably expected to succeed in life if he is denied the opportunity of an education. Such an opportunity . . . is a right that must be made available to all on equal terms.” METCO exemplifies the court’s pronouncement. Read more…

 

Op-ed: Teach students history of horrific slave trade

By Jamie Gass

“In thinking of America, I sometimes find myself admiring her bright blue sky and star-crowned mountains,” wrote African-American statesman and former slave Frederick Douglass. “But my rapture is soon checked When I remember that all is cursed with the infernal actions of slaveholding.”

February is Black History Month, but black history is American history and shouldn’t be relegated to one month annually.

Given K-12 education’s general disdain for background knowledge and memorizing dates, most American high school students know little European, African, and U.S. history or geography, including the terrifying truths about the transatlantic slave trade.

The slave trade uniquely embodies Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s view that we all share, “a single garment of destiny.” Spanning 1444 to 1870, the African slave trade defined our civilization, leaving a haunting global legacy.

Read this entire op-ed in The New Bedford Standard TimesThe Lowell SunThe Fitchburg Sentinel & EnterpriseThe Springfield RepublicanThe Berkshire EagleThe MetroWest Daily Newsand The Federalist.

 

Op-ed: We must teach hard historical truths of Emmett Till’s murder 

By Jamie Gas

This week marks the 60th anniversary of the murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year old black boy from Chicago who was killed by two white Mississippians for whistling in the presence of a white woman. “The news of Emmett’s death caused many people to participate in the cry for justice and equal rights, including myself,” wrote Rosa Parks, the first lady of civil rights. Read more…

Get Updates On Our US History Initiative

Related research and commentary:

International Best-Seller Dr. Jung Chang On Wild Swans, Mao’s Tyranny, & Modern China

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Dr. Jung Chang, author of the best-selling books Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China; Mao: The Unknown Story; and Big Sister, Little Sister, Red Sister: Three Women at the Heart of Twentieth-Century China.

“Architecture is Frozen Music” Great Massachusetts Buildings – 25 Resources for K-12 Education

Understanding enduring public and private architecture is a key way to learn about art, ideas, and how they harmonize with our democracy. Yet, Massachusetts buildings are often never discussed in K-12 education. We’re offering a variety of links about outstanding houses and architecture across the Bay State for parents, teachers, and schoolchildren to enjoy, visit, and better appreciate, including:

“City Upon a Hill” Massachusetts Monuments & Memorials: 25 Resources for K-12 Education

In Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs here, here, here, and here on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this one focuses on: Introducing K-12 schoolchildren to Massachusetts monuments & memorials.

Study: Signs of Progress at Madison Park, but Still a Long Way to Go

Four years after it began to implement a turnaround plan, Boston’s Madison Park Technical Vocational High School is showing clear signs of progress, but its performance continues to lag behind that of other vocational-technical schools in Massachusetts, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

When ignorance and violence are permitted to trump justice

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This week marks the 65th anniversary of the murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year old black boy from Chicago who was killed by two white Mississippians for whistling in the presence of a white woman.

Award-Winning Author Devery Anderson on the 65th Anniversary of the Murder of Emmett Till

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Devery Anderson, the author of Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement. Today, August 28th, marks the 65th anniversary of the brutal murder of 14-year old Emmett Till, a story which is central to understanding America's ongoing struggle for civil rights and racial justice.

The 65th Anniversary of the Murder of Emmett Till: 6 Key Resources for K-12 Education

Continuing Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this post focuses on the 65th anniversary of the murder of Emmett Till, which is August 28, 2020.

Daughters of Liberty: Celebrating the Centennial of Women's Suffrage & History - 10 Key Resources for K-12 Education

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In Pioneer’s ongoing series of blogs here, here, and here on curricular resources for parents, families, and teachers during COVID-19, this one focuses on: Celebrating the Centennial of Women's Suffrage & Women’s History.

Education tax credit programs extend choice to families who can’t afford private schools or to move to a tony community

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Thanks to the Supreme Court’s Espinoza ruling, many more students can reap the benefits of school choice

Brown Uni.’s Pulitzer-Winning Prof. Gordon Wood on American Independence & the Founding Fathers

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Gordon Wood, Alva O. Way University Professor and Professor of History Emeritus at Brown University and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Radicalism of the American Revolution.

Public Statement: Pioneer Institute Applauds U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Espinoza School Choice Case

Pioneer Institute applauds today’s U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down a bigoted state constitutional amendment in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. Like Massachusetts, Montana is among nearly 40 states with so-called anti-aid amendments, which have roots in 19th century anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant discrimination.

Pulitzer Winner Diane McWhorter on Civil Rights History & Race in America

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard mark the Juneteenth commemoration of the end of slavery with an episode devoted to Civil Rights history. They are joined by Diane McWhorter, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama: The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution.

NYT Best-Selling Children’s Author Carole Boston Weatherford on Fannie Lou Hamer & Race in America

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard are joined by Prof. Carole Boston Weatherford, a New York Times best-selling children’s book author, and Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Award winning biographer of Harriet Tubman and Fannie Lou Hamer.

Easthampton High Scores A National Educational Victory During The COVID-19 Pandemic

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This spring, Massachusetts’ Easthampton High School was crowned national champion in the “We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution” contest. The competition brings together about 1,200 students from across the country to answer civics questions based on America’s Founding Documents including the U.S. Constitution; The Federalist Papers; and U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

We Must Work Together to End Racial Injustice

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Read Pioneer Institute's Public Statement from Executive Director Jim Stergios on the need to address police brutality, racism, and economic inequality.

New York Times #1 best-selling author John M. Barry on the 1918 Influenza Pandemic & lessons for COVID-19

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This week on “The Learning Curve,” Cara and Gerard continue coverage of COVID-19’s impact on K-12 education, joined by John M. Barry, author of the #1 New York Times best seller, The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History.

Stanford Pulitzer Winner David Kennedy on Lessons for COVID-19 from the 1918 Flu Epidemic & Great Depression

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This week on “The Learning Curve” Cara and Gerard continue coverage of COVID-19’s impact on K-12 education, joined by Pulitzer-winning historian David Kennedy, the Donald J. McLachlan Professor of History Emeritus at Stanford University.

Will Fitzhugh on the Enduring Relevance of History Research & Writing

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Will Fitzhugh, founder and editor of The Concord Review, an international journal that has published high school students’ history essays for 30 years, joins "The Learning Curve" this week.