Afro-centric school flourishes in Milwaukee
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Web posted at: 10:00 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Lisa Price
MILWAUKEE (CNN) -- There is a poster of Cleopatra on the wall in an eighth-grade classroom at Malcolm X Academy here, a black Cleopatra.
On the walls of another classroom there are posters of Africa. And in a math class, a teacher writes an equation on the chalkboard and says "Martin Luther King was born January 15, 1929. I want to know how old would he be today"
All instruction in this school comes from an African-American perspective, and not everybody is happy about it.
Leon Todd, a member of the school board, says Afro-centric education leads to a racist, historically inaccurate and academically distorted curriculum.
Todd claims students at Malcolm X are taught ancient African religions and rituals, including discussion of female circumcision.
"These are some of the things that are extensions of regular black history, according to Afro-centrics, that I object to," he says.
'They have a right to know this culture'
After the school board voted 7 to 2 last month in favor of setting new standards for the culturally based educational system, Todd's house was firebombed.
Others say, however, that the Afro-centric education is working. Among them is Kenneth Hold, the principal at Malcolm X.
"They have a right to know this culture," he says. "Why is it OK to have a Western Europe perspective in history and not include the entire history of all people in this world?"
The controversy appears to be in part a question of how the course matter is interpreted. The Afro-centric curriculum has strong support from teachers, parents and students who say it's not only working, but flourishing.
"You get to learn about your own culture and the teachers are really hard on you to make you work, so you can understand," says one young student.
Test scores have steadily improved
Believed to be the first Afro-centric school in the country, Malcolm X adopted the teaching method five years ago. Since then, test scores have steadily improved.
"Once the children realize where they are from," says the mother of one student, "then they'll have a better understanding of the path they need to walk."
The path of knowledge at Malcolm X Academy may take an abrupt turn. In June, the Milwaukee school board is expected to vote on whether to continue teaching Afro-centric classes.
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