by: JoAnna Gunnufsen
In a state where racism and violence once thrived, the issue of civil rights has been a sore subject. Every February, history teachers give a brief run-down of black history, but they are not required by law to teach the subject. In landmark fashion, Mississippi has become the first state to mandate civil rights teaching into its social studies curriculum.
Officials from the Mississippi Department of Education have spent the past five years revising the social studies curriculum to include civil and human rights lessons. Though the revisions have only been implemented this school year, teachers are already feeling the effects. “The focus is shifting from learning general American history to learning more about the efforts of minorities, immigrants, and labor unions. It’s more of a cultural history,” Mr. Sutton, 11th grade U.S. History teacher, said.
In addition to creating a new history curriculum, the Department of Education has also created a more difficult state test. The state has made civil rights a part of the U.S. History test that students must pass for graduation to ensure that it is taught in schools. There is a greater emphasis on reading, writing, and comprehension in connection with history. “Students are writing more essays than in previous years and have been given more documents for understanding. It’s like they’re preparing for an AP test but on a smaller scale,” Sutton said.
Though U.S. History students have just a semester to prepare, many students are confident that they can pass the state test. Josh Hart, a junior in Mr. Sutton’s class, said, “I’m not worried about the changes in the test. I know that our class will be well prepared.”