District 65 offices at the JEH Education Center.

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 plans to weave materials from the “Black Lives Matter at School” unit throughout the curriculum beginning next year, rather than having a dedicated equity week.

The last of those dedicated BLM weeks will take place over the next month, in various times depending on grade and class, through the entire K-8 system.

In a website message to the community, superintendent Devon Horton says District 65 “continue[s] to refine the lessons based on feedback”

Horton says starting next school year, “integration of this learning across content areas” will help “expose all students to more accurate and affirming historical events that elevates marginalized people and includes the interrogation of events from multiple perspectives.”

While much of the BLM classwork focuses on relating to others as individuals rather than members of groups, “empathy and loving engagement,” and making our world a fairer place, there are also components which critics say advances the agenda of a political group, Black Lives Matter, rather than simply dealing with issues of racism and race relations.

In a March, 2021 article in “The Atlantic” magazine, the headline on author Conor Friesdorf’s article says that the BLM in School movement is spreading, and in focusing on District 65, the author raises a question of “the link between education and indoctrination.”

A BLM curriculum outline is available via a link to the District 65 Equity Weeks page.

Among the potentially controversial materials is one whose “Content/Goal” is that “students will understand that our country has a racist history that is grounded in white privilege.” That goal is in the preschool/kindergarten overview.

The “Atlantic” article also asked whether it is proper for a “public school encouraging the children to adopt the expansive agenda of the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Am image from the cover page of the District 65 Black Lives Matter at School curriculum.

For example, cover page of the District 65 Black Lives Matter at School curriculum website shows an image for a “Black Lives Matter Week of Action National Demands,” one of which is “Fund Counselors Not Cops.”

In his message, Superintendent Horton says, “We understand that discussing issues of race may create discomfort which is sometimes grounded in uncertainty about how to discuss with our children.”

Horton suggests that for families “who wish to engage on topics including race, racism, Black joy, and White privilege,” resources on the district’s web links are available and “may be supportive as you engage in your own learning and preparation for a conversation with your children.”

Horton also says that course materials will be “developmentally” appropriate for students.

As issues rasied in the BLM program are incorporated in the overall curriculum, Horton says that includes new units in social studies.

The superintendent states that the new social studies coursework, rolled out over several years, “will promote civic competence, knowledge and democratic dispositions to lead students to be engaged and active in public life.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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