5 Steps for Cultural Equity In Curriculum


Parents of color have the power to influence cultural equity in curriculum. Here is how this story goes:

My children are graduating this year and I am beyond proud that they are thriving academically as they continue to manage the culture of independent schools as children of color. It is a known fact that our children have to quickly develop a competency for navigating the racial and social construct of privilege that exists if they are going to strike a strong balance between cultural identity and academic achievement. They can’t do it alone, parents, care-givers – schools too, all have to help.

As my eldest moves on to upper school (9th gr.) and my youngest moves up to middle school (6th gr.), I am reminded of when our independent school journey began in kindergarten. One child followed behind the other in the lower school. As expected, the pattern of curriculum repeated, and soon we began to collect two of each book on the reading lists. The books also showed a pattern of having a mono-cultural perspective. With one child left in the lower division I dared to have a conversation about cultural equity in curriculum.

The outcome of that conversation was transformational. At first, Howard Zinn’s, A Young People’s History Of the United States appeared on the reading list for history class. Cultural equity even began to weave it’s way into the fabric of school culture with a play written and performed by 5th grade students called Journey to Freedom.  The play offered children’s accounts of the eras of american slavery, child labor, and civil rights.  The play ended with the student’s version of grammy award-winning song, Glory bringing a tear to this mom’s eye.

The best part of having the conversation is that my son and his classmates are exploring pluralistic perspectives. This supports my son’s cultural identity and prepares all students to develop empathy and think critically in a world with complex social and political challenges.

When families of color have been offered a seat in private  independent schools, it is time to get vigilant. This academic privilege can come with with a heavy emotional price-tag.  Let’s make sure our greatest investment has positive gains.

Here are four steps we took to get more equity in curriculum:

  1. Review the books in the book bag and at the school library to get a sense of the cultural perspectives that are being referenced
  2. If you notice (or, don’t notice) something, say something to a leader who can make change happen, like a curriculum director or head of school
  3. Identify the outcome you’d like to see happen before you have your conversation so that you can measure outcomes over time – won’t happen over night
  4. Inspire like-minded parents to do the same and help schools achieve cultural equity in curriculum

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