The African-American History Requirement for Students in the School District of Philadelphia: Is it Worth the Controversy?

Brian Broderick


In 2005, Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission enacted a policy that requires all students in the School District of Philadelphia to take a year-long course in African-American history in order to graduate. This policy was designed to make the school curriculum more culturally relevant for black students (who make up the majority of the student body in Philadelphia), as well as to give all students a new perspective on the American experience. Critics, however, have argued that the policy promoted the interests of the African-American community at the expense of other racial and cultural groups. This study seeks to examine the effectiveness of the policy by soliciting the thoughts and opinions of Philadelphia high school students. The findings suggest that students tend to enjoy their African-American history classes, and that there is no substantial difference in enjoyment between black and non-black students. However, the data show that black students find African-American history classes much more meaningful and relevant than non-black students do. The data also suggest that the race of the teacher of the African-American history course may affect how enjoyable, meaningful, and/or relevant students find their African-American history class.


Culturally Relevant Curriculum, Critical Race Theory, Urban Education

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