Did you know that March 31 is Cesar Chavez Day? Do you know why we honor Chavez? Do you know who or what is celebrated tomorrow or next month and why? The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has a very detailed calendar of observances that outlines many ethnic, cultural, and religions observances. The ADL calendar can be viewed here. Diversity Best Practices has a diversity calendar as well.
In my current work I collaborate on district-wide equity work with a core group of leaders within our system. At the beginning of February, which is known as Black History Month, one of my colleagues brought up this calendar and why we still use it. Below are just a few examples from a lengthy and diverse list of honors.
- March is National Women’s History Month
- April has a Day of Silence to protest the actual silencing of LGBTQ students and their allies
- May is Jewish American Heritage Month and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
- June 19, Juneteenth, commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas in 1865, and now celebrates African-American freedom and achievement
- November 16 is International Day for Tolerance
In our discussion we agreed, as equity leaders, that we need to move beyond one day or one month celebrations, and into a more integrated system where all of our curriculum and timelines address the contributions of, for example, Black Americans within American History, not just in February. However, we also recognized the history behind developing national calendars that call out key groups across a year. I know that when I study the ADL calendar of observances linked above, there are historical religious events called out that I am not familiar with, which means that I need to educate myself in order to honor these events with my students. In many part of our country, and across educational systems, current adopted curriculums do not address the full history of our nation, nor the contributions of BIPOC Americans. If we didn’t have a day or month dedicated to certain groups or events, such as November being National American Indian Heritage Month, would American Indians be mentioned or studied at all in some classrooms?
Some thoughts for educators to consider:
- Who is represented in your state standards?
- Who is left out of those standards?
- Who is represented in your adopted curriculum?
- Who is left out of your adopted curriculum?
- In those standards and curricular materials, when non-white people are mentioned, are there successes and challenges shared?
- When you supplement your curriculum with your own texts, videos, and resources, how do you make your selections?
- Do the students in your classroom see themselves in your content area on a regular basis?
- Do the students in your classroom see successful people who are different from them in your content area on a regular basis?
If you study that calendar, there is a celebration or honor on most days of the year, and certainly within each month. Due to social media, I feel like more of these days are being celebrated publicly, especially by politicians, large businesses, and celebrities. But a tweet or post, using a trendy hashtag, is performative and not contributing to any systemic change. I believe we need to move beyond a list of days, and do a complete audit on our systems, our policies, and our resources. Only when we lift up the hood and look deeper will we know what work we need to do to ensure our schools are focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion in ways that systemically support all students.