Educators Crafting Curriculum on Kansas City’s Racial History

On Wednesday, June 29, 2016, about 40 Kansas City high school teachers, college professors, and public librarians gathered for an educator summit at the Central Resource Library of Johnson County to begin creating a curriculum on Kansas City’s racial history.

The library’s Race Project aims to “facilitate intentional dialogue about the structural forms of racism in America and Kansas City. We focus on the American education system in particular, attempting to conduct a sincere investigation into the history, causes, and potential solutions to systemic, structural racism.” The project has several important partners, including high schools in Blue Valley, Raytown, Wyandotte, and Shawnee Mission, Rockhurst University, and author Tanner Colby (Some of My Best Friends are Black), who has spoken at more than one event.

Wednesday’s summit sought to

create meaningful curriculum on racial inequalities in the KC area, and to promote social justice initiatives that encourage community and student engagement incorporating We are Superman, Our Divided City, Racism in Kansas City: A Short History, and Some of My Best Friends are Black. Participants will engage in active dialogue about the difficulties embedded within “race talk,” practice the use of “classroom tools” to enhance classroom conversations about race, develop grade-level appropriate curriculum that fosters critical thinking, research skills, and that address local social justice issues in the Kansas City area.

Of importance to the group was teaching high school and college students current inequities between blacks and whites in Kansas City — in wealth, education, healthcare, police stops and searches, and so on — and then researching the historical causes, all in a student-led manner. Various proposals were offered after this, including having students go to grade schools or middle schools to teach the next generation, having students design feasible ideas on how to address the inequities and social ills and then competing for grant or scholarship funds in the spirit of a “science fair,” or taking students on bus tours to important places in Kansas City’s racial past.

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