THOUGH D.C. School Superintendent Andrew Jenkins is committed to the implementation of an Afrocentric curriculum, the form it will take has not been determined. To date, the African-Centered Education Task Force, which first met in May of 1989, has submitted its report and the superintendent is still considering it, said Frances Powell, curriculum director.
"Once the School Board has had an opportunity to look at the task force's recommendations and policies, the superintendent has said we will develop an African-centered curriculum," Powell said.
"What they are hoping is that black students will want to learn more about world history and to think better of themselves," Powell said. "And perhaps learning about Africa and its role in science will help motivate black males into going into science."
What form will the Afrocentric curriculum take? It may resemble an existing lesson plan called "The African American Experience in American History," designed to supplement courses for eighth- and 11th-graders. Or, Powell said, it may be similar to the "baseline essays" now used in the Portland, Ore., schools.
Portland's baseline essays divide humanity into six "geocultural" groups -- African, American Indian, Asian, European, Hispanic and Pacific Islander. There are six subject areas: math, science, art, music, language arts and social studies. Eight themes recur in each essay. Among them: "Early civilizations evolved in Africa; Africa is the cradle of civilization"; "People of African descent have a history that precedes slavery and civil rights"; "The culture of African people was not destroyed by slavery"; "Even under slavery, colonization and segregation, African/African-American people have made significant cultural contributions in the arts, sciences, humanities, politics, and other facets of the human experience."
Each essay follows a similar pattern, beginning with the African origins of the subject area and then tracing them to the present. Thus the essay on science states that "if the question were asked what the greatest achievements of humanity are, no answer could rival . . . the discovery of time, the control and use of fire, the development of tool technology, language and agriculture. Nothing in the 20th century has touched humanity so totally as those things, which were first accomplished by Africans . . ." The essay then explores Egyptian astronomy, medicine, electrical engineering, aeronautics and magic, noting about the latter that "that legacy has been cloaked in controversy, marred with misunderstanding, and veiled in mystery," before moving to the contributions of scientists such as George Washington Carver and Charles Drew.
The essay on art begins by arguing that European biases have hindered the understanding and acceptance of black art, then goes on to explore some of the philosophical concepts underlying black art -- "Africans recognize themselves as a part of the whole picture, not as a separate entity above or outside nature." It goes on to explore the history of black art from pottery found in 10,000 B.C. along the Nile River to the state of African art after the beginnings of European colonization, and includes surveys of black American artists and black African artists, past and present.