The “Melting Pot” Under Challenge: Afrocentrism and Multiculturalism in Baltimore City’s Public Schools

January 1992 / Abell Reports / Education

In a well-intentioned attempt to “correct,” are we “rewriting”? The community needs to debate: “What is accurate? What shall we teach our children?”

At the August 8, 1991 meeting of the Baltimore City School Board, Dr. Rebecca Carroll, co-chairman of the board-appointed African/African American Task Force, presented the committee’s recommendations “for the infusion of materials about the history, contributions, and perspec­tives of people of African descent into the (multicultural) curriculum documents currently under development.” The board’s decision to develop and implement a multicultural curriculum and an African and African-American content within it marked a watershed in the history of the system.

At stake is not only the question of the kind of education 110,000 students in one city will receive, but also larger questions: What kind of America do Americans want? Is it one where society emphasizes separate ethnic identities, or one where these same separate ethnic identities, though preserved, are submerged in favor of the melting pot ideal? How should society go about identifying and then “correct­ing” the biases in our existing curricula? What are the risks implicit in the task force’s objectives? What are the hoped for gains?

The program began as a pilot in the fifth grade on the first day of the school year, September, 1991.

Because the issue remains a complex one, with widespread implications, the continuing debate about it serves the community interest. This article seeks to provide background material to deepen and extend that debate.