Today’s students are becoming better informed about black history, a Scottsdale educator says. At the beginning of each school year, Donna Schell has always asked students to list the 10 most important people in American history. She’s noticed two women have started popping up: Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman.
"It shows that over time we’ve certainly made them more culturally sensitive and made them aware of significant women of color," said Schell, a social studies curriculum specialist for the Scottsdale Unified School District.
Some students are hungry for more.
Nicole Hams, 14, a sophomore at Arcadia High School said she believes teachers could expand instruction on the civil rights movement.
"I think they focus too much on people like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks. They should focus on other people who aren’t as famous but have also made contributions — like the people who invented the traffic light or peanut butter," she said. "I think they just teach the same thing every school year."
Education about race doesn’t have to take place in the classroom. Hams is part of a club called Unitown that helps promote diversity.
So is Claudia Ruiz, 15. Ruiz said she usually hangs out with friends at Arcadia who are Hispanic, like her. But she joined Unitown because she wanted to mix with people of different cultures.
"People don’t reach out . . . because they’re worried they’re not going to get accepted because they don’t have the same traditions," she said.
Hams agreed that it’s often a self-confidence issue — one she thinks student clubs like Unitown can help address.
"People are racist against white people, black people, Jewish people — and when other people see stuff, they will either join in or break away," she said. "We should do more things to help them break away, activities that unite students."