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HS Classes Update African-American/Native American Literature

FNSB School District

The Fairbanks North Star Borough School Board will approve another piece of high school curriculum tonight. The English and Language Arts Curriculum for high school juniors and seniors has been revised several times since it was brought before the board in January. It features updated options for African-American Literature and Native American Literature classes.

Former Fairbanks Council of PTAs President Villetta Knight says she is glad to see an updated African American Literature class in the revised curriculum. She says there are very few teachers of color in the district, and if children can’t see teachers who look like them, they can read about characters like them.

“I think it is important that every kid understands different points of view and different cultures. Especially the African-American culture; we’ve contributed so much, and I think students need to learn about that.”

There are required classes in American Literature kids can pick from, and high school students need to take a Writing Intensive Class like Composition, Journalism or Creative Writing.

A report about the various required and elective course offerings was presented at last week’s school board meeting.

One of the new elective classes for 11th and 12th graders is called Social Themes in Literature. Students who pick this elective would read from a list of books written by and about people who have been historically underrepresented in the literary canon - women, Native Americans, African Americans/Africans, Latinx, Asian/Asian Americans and LGBTQ+ people.

The reference to LGBTQ authors or characters was exploited by an anti-homosexual blogger, who misled some parents into thinking the curriculum would have required reading about sexual activity. New board member, April Smith said she found this misunderstood message a frustrating distraction.

“I mean it nowhere says they have to or are encouraged to read LGBTQ selections. Or anti-American selections.”

It is also frustrating for parents like Knight, who find the revised curriculum a step forward in representation.

“I’m a very active Christian, very strong conservative. And my focus is, children need to be exposed to the real world, not just a white-washed version of it. It’s very important that my grandchildren get the benefit my children did not have.”