Why black history is important

8th September 2006 at 01:00
Sharon Foster (TES, August 25), the author of the BBC drama Shoot the Messenger (starring David Oyelowo, right), says white teachers should stop teaching "black" history, not take part in Black History Month and only have black parents or black supplementary schools teach "black" history on the grounds that it is unreasonable for multicultural schools to provide history lessons "tailored for every one of their pupils".

Apart from chiming with white racist separatists who wish to dump multiculturalism, there are a number of problems with this view.

First, the raison d'etre of Black History Month is that the British history curriculum is still a "white" history. The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has acknowledged this and will address the issue in forthcoming changes to the history national curriculum.

I would see Black History Month as a temporary measure to encourage the inclusion of the black and Asian presence in British history over hundreds of years. Getting rid of it obviates the need for an inclusive curriculum and means more of the same.

If the curriculum is a "white" one, where would parents have learnt their "black" history? Supplementary schools do a good job but they lack resources, and why should all black pupils go to supplementary schools to learn their history?

I agree that "black" history is not at the level it should be, but Ms Foster promotes a retrograde step. She needs to think more about the positive, anti-racist strand behind it and encourage its use by all teachers of whatever race. These programmes aim to bring our multicultural society closer together, not towards the segregated, racially divided society that is the consequence of separatism.

John Siblon

History teacher, City and Islington College, London

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