On February 27, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released a statement after meeting with leaders of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), praising these institutions as “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.” She spoke more the following evening about HBCUs’ history of challenging the status quo and “providing a necessary opportunity to African Americans following the Civil War.”
DeVos’ disregard for (or ignorance of) the systems of racism and racial discrimination that necessitated HBCUs in the first place is a striking example of historical whitewashing from the highest levels of the U.S. power structure. Such disregard, unfortunately, trickles down and influences what happens in school buildings. Today, we encourage you to address with students the history of inequitable education systems in the United States and how people, groups and institutions like HBCUs have not only worked to upend those systems but also have excelled in spite of them. It’s possible that your students don’t know much about HBCUs. This is a great chance to teach an empowering and inspirational part of black history.
- What is an HBCU? Where are they located, who can attend them and who are some well-known alumni?
- What social conditions led to the formation of HBCUs?
- HBCUs are often portrayed as a modern construct that grew from the Jim Crow era. Is this true? Why or why not?
- How is school choice different from equal access to educational opportunities?
- What was the intent of Secretary DeVos' statements? What was the impact of her statements? Provide evidence.
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