New African-American Course Generates Controversy

Araya Dunne, A&E Co-Editor

Beginning in the 2017-2018 school year, Washington High School will offer two new African-American based classes. Each is a semester long course. One is called “African-American History”. The other is called “African-American Literature” and there has been some tension between the CRCSD and the language arts teachers of Washington due to disagreements on the credit that they believe that this class deserves.

The CRCSD has decided to make this class an elective LA class, but the teachers believe that this course should count towards the required LA credit that is needed to graduate. Mark Hilton, ninth and tenth grade language arts teacher, says that “The actual course is welcome to our department and I think that for us to offer it is a great idea, but I just would like to find a way for students to be able to earn LA credit instead of the current given elective credit. As of right now, there’s less incentive to sign up for the course”, Hilton explained.

Adam Witte, head of the language arts department at Wash, says “In my opinion, to not offer LA credit for that class treats African-American Literature as less important or invalid compared to traditional literature. I don’t think the district thought of the AAL class being offered as an elective to be interpreted this way, but I don’t think they thought this decision through either”.

Karla Ries, Director of Instructional Services for CRCSD, explained in an email the rationale of why this specific literature class has still not had a change in the credit it will be given this fall, even though there has been opposition to the elective credit. “We are working to develop a menu of classes that students can take during their 11th and 12th grade year that meet the requirements of the ELA Iowa Core. If a student were to take African American Literature, we would have no way to guarantee they would have access to the required standards,” Ries wrote.

Kyle Phillips, LA-9 teacher and journalism adviser, is currently scheduled to teach the African-American literature course at Washington next year.