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The district is set to launch Black Studies 12, a new course exploring the rich and diverse history of Black peoples in B.C. and Canada, as well as the historical impacts on current events and ongoing issues of racism, oppression, decolonization and identity in today's world.
In November, the Surrey Board of Education approved Black Studies 12 as a board authority authorized (BAA) course, a teacher-generated course that meets Ministry of Education curriculum requirements. The course was developed by Earl Marriott Secondary teacher Michael Musherure, L.A. Matheson Secondary teacher Manvir Mander and Frank Hurt Secondary teacher Melanie Scheuer, with guidance from social studies helping teacher Cori Penner.
"It takes a lot of teacher time and dedication to develop these courses," said Penner. "They really wanted to have voices come to the forefront that perhaps were in the periphery in most of our historical learning, and they've done such an amazing job of doing just that."
Musherure, Mander and Scheuer began working on the course last spring, coming together after each realized the provincial curriculum lacked teachings of Black history, culture and art, despite the popularity of social justice among youth and growing support for anti-racism movements such as Black Lives Matter.
"For me, representation is a big thing," said Musherure. "When I started with the district, I was surprised there wasn't much about Black history or literature – it was like it was invisible, not there. As a teacher who is Black, we teach all of these histories and then you realize that your own history is not represented in this narrative."
"The desire stemmed from a passion for justice and a responsibility to our students," added Mander. "We have an obligation to educate ourselves and to teach our students about the complex, beautiful and vibrant histories of Black peoples and communities. Those of us who are not Black also have a responsibility to fight against and eradicate anti-Black racism. Black people should not have to teach non-Black people about oppression."
Leading up to November, the teachers worked to create an interdisciplinary approach to the course that features elements of social studies, music, science and language, visual and media arts.
As they shared information about the course with their students, they received considerable interest, noting many youth are open minded about social justice and often want to build on their own understanding of issues of race.
"There's a lot of interest from Black students but also from various other racialized students who really want to know that history," said Scheuer. "I constantly hear students speak about the microaggressions they face, the lack of representation, the racism that they see. They're curious and excited to take this course."
"They ask me so many questions – they want to learn," said Musherure. "What they've been seeing on TV, on social media, everywhere, they feel it's not enough and it inspires them to want to learn more."
The course will be offered at Earl Marriott Secondary, Frank Hurt Secondary and L.A Matheson Secondary in September, with potential to be offered at other secondary schools. Students can register in February during course selection.
As the course unfolds, all three teachers said they hope it will provide students with a sense of compassion and empathy, and inspire them to ask more questions and work to further understand Black history in Canada and beyond.
"I trust they will be changed," said Scheuer. "I think they will see the world through various lenses and gain a deeper understanding of our histories and our present reality and our potential future.
"I think they will ultimately leave with a sense of how to make those systemic changes, starting with themselves."