Reinstate Black Lives in Literature

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Issue 17, Volume 111

By Amanda Cisse 

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Stuyvesant is a school that promotes diversity in its English and social studies curriculums. It offers a plethora of classes, such as Asian American Literature, Women’s Voices in Literature, Defining American Voices, Writing in the World, and The Jewish Experience. The Senior Caucus has also been working with the administration to diversify the literature departments by recommending books and authors. During this cycle of course selections, the English department removed the Black Lives in Literature elective because English teacher Heather Huhn, who taught the elective, is leaving this year. This elective, which featured rich works by Frederick Douglass and August Wilson, needs to be reinstated to give students a truer choice in their education. We cannot choose a culture that is interesting to us if the choices themselves are limited. We pick from what is offered, which can only be inclusive and diverse if we are offered more.

Throughout the American education system, our choices are neither inclusive nor diverse at all. The best demonstration of this absence is the College Board. It offers three Advanced Placement (AP) history classes: AP United States History, AP European History, and AP World History. World History, along with the history of the country one lives in, should be a standard part of any history curriculum. However, European history should not be a standard for learning. The presence of AP European History as the only other specialized history course that the College Board offers excludes those who want to learn specifically about their heritage or other continents that they are interested in. Students with European descent are given the opportunity to take a history class centered around their background, but students with ancestry from other continents are not. How can we be sure that a student taking AP European History has a genuine interest in the subject matter and is not just taking it because a class of true interest is not available? If classes for each continent were available and a student still chose to take AP European History, then we can be sure it is out of true interest.

At Stuyvesant, 70 percent of students are Asian-American, yet European Literature is the mandatory English course for sophomores. Yes, Europe has influential and historic works and invented the modern novel, but other continents have deep and meaningful literature as well. It is not only diverse schools that need classes about their various cultures. Everyone should be able to learn about cultures besides one’s own. The best way to resolve this issue is to offer literature courses from all continents and remove the mandate to take European Literature or to create a global literature class. Reinstating Black Lives in Literature would take a step toward a more global curriculum.

Reinstating Black Lives in Literature would give the Black community at Stuyvesant more representation in the curriculum and the option to learn about their history, of which so much has been wiped away. Stuyvesant should have taken the continuation of the course as an opportunity to rehire. The College Board should add additional AP history classes, such as AP African or AP Asian History courses, or simply remove AP European History. Stuyvesant should remove European Literature as a mandatory requirement for sophomore English and instead allow students to take their pick of literature classes from around the world or mandate one global literature course. These steps will encourage everyone to become a global citizen, give more students the option to study what is significant to them, and foster relevant and diverse education.