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Miss. Receives Passing Grade in Civil Rights Education

By Annie Gilbertson | Published 28 Sep 2011 08:05pm | comments
With a rich civil rights history, Mississippi seeks to educate the students of today the value of equality.

A new report from the the Southern Poverty Law Center gives  Missisippi a passing grade in teaching civil rights in the classroom, but says there is room for improvement. MPB's education reporter, Annie Gilbertson reports.

The report gives Mississippi a "C" in civil rights education.  The state standards recommend teaching about key leaders and events but often doesn't require it.  Events like the shootings of  Mississippi’s Freedom Summer.

Old News Tape: “A reputed Ku Klux Klan member says he’s not guilty of the 1964 slayings of civil rights workers in Mississippi…”

But just because the state don't require it, doesn't mean Freedom Summer isn't included  in many curriculums used by local districts and teachers.

Old News Tape:  “James Chainy and Michal Goodman had been registering voters.”

U.S. History teacher Althea Stewart teaches Freedom Summer as a part of a broad civil rights framework at Jim Hill High School in Jackson.  She thinks the students’ Mississippi roots increase their understanding and willingness to continue to work towards equality.

Stewart: “Definitely.  One of the things we must teach is having our students take what they learn and apply it to real life situations.”

And it’s these real-life applications that put Mississippi ahead of the majority of states in The Southern Poverty Law Center's report.  The study broke down civil rights standards into two categories: content and context.  In context, Mississippi received 100% because it required civil rights to be related to current events and other movements as well as emphasized the importance of responsible citizenship.  But Mississippi didn’t do as well in the content caterogy.  It only received 30%.

Maureen Costello, Teaching Tolerance Director at the Southern Poverty Law Center, says simply providing context, without adequate historical content  isn't enough. 

Costello: “But there is no accountability.  No way to find out if it really is being taught.  It’s a question I think needs further study.”

Despite its perceived shortcomings on teaching content, Mississippi was given the 8th highest score in the country, and the South as a region did better than any other part of the country.

From the Southern Education Desk, for MPB News, I'm Annie Gilbertson.

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With a rich civil rights history, Mississippi seeks to educate the students of today the value of equality.


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