Philly Teachers’ Black Lives Matter Curriculum Drawing Support, Scorn

A locally created week of lesson plans based around the national movement is getting the attention of “outside agitators.”

A group of teachers in the School District of Philadelphia has created a curriculum based around the Black Lives Matter movement, and instructors plan to incorporate lesson plans this week. But the project is attracting criticism from some corners.

The Caucus of Working Educators, a group within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers union, is calling on schools and individual teachers to dedicate an hour a day to teaching students about the Black Lives Matter movement through events and lesson plans for elementary, middle and high school students that the group has created and shared online.

“As teachers, Philadelphians, human beings and humane beings, we must embrace racial justice by embracing the lives of our black students and the communities of color surrounding our schools,” the organization said in a statement issued in November. “The Black Lives Matter movement gives us a roadmap to that destination.”

The group’s “week of action” is grounded in the 13 principles of the national Black Lives Matter movement. Each day of the week will feature different themes, including:

  • January 23rd: Restorative Justice and Empathy and Loving Engagement
  • January 24th: Diversity and Globalism
  • January 25th: Transgender Affirming and Queer Affirming and Collective Value
  • January 26th: Intergenerational and Black Families and Black Villages
  • January 27th: Black Women and Unapologetically Black

Teachers can fill out a form to indicate if and how much they want to participate this week – there are no requirements from the group or from the School District of Philadelphia, which is not directly affiliated with the caucus’s efforts.

The Inquirer reports that some teachers, as well as John McNesby, president of Philadelphia division of the Fraternal Order of Police union, have criticized the lesson plans. McNesby reportedly said there are “a lot better subjects that could be taught.”

But according to the district, the curriculum offers “an opportunity for us to infuse fresh understanding and critical intellect,” according to organizers, who argue that issues surrounding Black Lives Matter are already present in district classrooms, where 51 percent of students are black and 21 percent are Latino.

“Since it’s a very pertinent issue right now, we thought it was important to not only have teachers have conversations with students, but for teachers to have conversations with each other,” group organizer Ishmael Jiminez said on 900 AM WURD this morning. Jiminez said much of the pushback that the organization has received has come from people calling from places like Arkansas and West Virginia – he called those people “outside agitators.”

H. Lee Whack Jr., a district spokesman, told the Inquirer that though the caucus’s lesson plans are not part of the district curriculum, the district “regularly encourages schools to look to current-event topics for appropriate teaching content that is also aligned with grade-appropriate standards.”

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