State Representative Jesse Chism’s (D-Memphis) latest bill would create a committee overseeing African American history in public education. House Bill 0429 aims to ensure that the curriculum would become more “accurate and consistently applied.”
Currently, Tennessee’s social studies standards outline that curriculums specifically pertaining to African American history are reserved for high school grades 9-12. Eighth grade students also engage briefly in African American history through the 19th century, such as how African Americans were involved in the Civil War and impacted by certain domestic policies.
Chism’s proposed committee would oversee implementation of African American history from the 1600s to modern day. Their duties would include ensuring that the proper materials and textbooks are used, elevating the history’s prominence within all social studies curriculum, ensuring teachers’ abilities to teach the history, and creating a directory of African American history experts.
However, the Tennessee Code dictates that the curriculum is drafted mainly according to local boards of education, with some multicultural diversity input from the state board of education. It is unclear what relationship the committee would have with the local boards.
The Tennessee Star reached out to Chism regarding how the committee’s role as a liaison for textbook publishers would impact the Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission, and how the need arose for such a committee. Chism didn’t respond by press time.
The committee would have five members knowledgeable about African American history, each serving staggered terms. The Governor and the Speakers of the State House and Senate would appoint one member each from teachers across the state, while the Commissioner of Education would appoint two members that aren’t in the educational system.
Chism added that these committee members must meet a long list of diversity standards: professional or educational backgrounds, ethnicity, race, sex, geographic residency, heritage, perspective, and experience. And, a member can be removed at any time “for cause.”
The bill has only been introduced thus far.
In addition to the committee outlined in the bill, Chism’s other bills introduced this session propose no conviction for individuals for marijuana possession under one ounce, the prohibition of solitary confinement for pregnant prisoners, and the provision of free telephone calls to parents and limitation of solitary confinement for juveniles.
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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].
Photo “State Rep. Jesse Chism” by State Rep. Jesse Chism.