Thursday, September 14, 2017

Curriculum of Inclusion and Correction

September 14, 2017

New York State Education Department
89 Washington Avenue
Board of Regents, Room 110 EB
Albany, New York 12234

Dear Members of the New York State Board of Regents [Individually Addressed]:

I request that you consider a comprehensive review of New York State public school curricula to identify omissions and inaccuracies that lead to ignorance and misrepresentations of history.

In light of what occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the movement in the aftermath to remove symbolic, though controversial, monuments across America, the time is right to do right.

When I was the principal of Beach Channel High School from 1997 to 2002, I asked a certified teacher of English to tell me his favorite James Baldwin novel. He said, to my surprise, that he had never read anything by Baldwin. I thought, how could this be possible?

Well, in 2017, it is not only possible, but also very likely that works by people of the African diaspora are not required reading in many colleges and universities (not to mention primary and secondary public schools). Therefore, students could go through their entire formal education without being exposed to any non-Anglo or non-Eurocentric readings. The implications of such a phenomenon are profound on many levels, particularly for prospective teachers.

Today, your 17-member board is more diverse than it has ever been. I fear if you won’t address omissions, diversity, inclusion, and correctness in the state’s curricula now, it might never happen.

While I appeal to all members of the board of regents, I especially call upon those regents who owe their positions to courageous forebearers to shift swiftly, deliberately, and conscientiously toward correctness and inclusion.

On behalf of current and future generations, please consider the challenge to continue a movement that took root with former vice chancellor emerita of the New York State Board of Regents Adelaide Sanford, the late education advocate and New York State education commissioner Thomas Sobel, and others.


Bernard Gassaway

Hempstead, NY (Brooklyn)