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Practical Politics

The politics of giving a relevant gift

David L. Horne, PH.D. | 12/15/2016, midnight

In public school education, Ethnic Studies courses are the new rage, particularly in California.

While the rest of the country seems to be content with its stunning lack of cultural literacy, given we’ve had a successful POTUS for the past eight years who is decidedly African American with a distinctly African American family, California, as it is known to do, has leaped out front.

In September, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that mandates the creation of a model Ethnic Studies curriculum for all California high schools, including charter schools. The curriculum will be eventually approved by the State Board of Education and sent to the local school districts to adopt it as is, or to adjust the model to their own local circumstances, or to reject the model curriculum and instead to come up with a reasonable alternative. This legislation, the first in the nation, is considered groundbreaking.

In other words, rather than to be content with students not learning enough about diverse cultures, contributions and values to be ready for the future world of multi-culturalism, California’s leadership has decided to do something significant about the issue.

Recently, LAUSD showed its spunk by passing an Ethnic Studies graduation requirement for its high schools, as did the much smaller El Rancho Unified School District in Pico Rivera. Its graduation class of 2016 will reflect that requirement, while the LAUSD’s graduation requirement will take effect in 2018-19, after a long battle begun in earnest in 2014 with the passing of an Ethnic Studies school board resolution that got boondoggled into insignificance because of a fight over money. In fact, by the 2017-18 school year, every high school in the LAUSD must now offer at least one semester of ethnic studies.

Studies, like a recent one at Stanford University, have consistently shown that students who take Ethnic Studies coursework in high school tend to do better in overall grade point averages, school cooperation, etc. The courses seem to be at least one prescription for a healthier future America. Clearly, racism and xenophobia in this country have not died on their own.

Also relevant in this discussion is the continuation of some significant institutional efforts at standardizing the distribution of information on cultural and educational contributions made to America by African Americans. Besides the great addition of the renowned African American Museum in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Postal Service has done an outstanding job in its own lane by consistently publishing African American stamps since 1976. This writer strongly encourages parents and family members to go to local post offices and order collections of these stamps and give them as presents to youth. This is a gift of lasting value.

The Postal Service has printed almost 100 stamps celebrating African American achievements. The list is below. Please take the list with you to an available post office and ask for the whole collection this holiday season for a great gift—the U.S. Post Office’s Black Heritage Stamp Collection.

Starting with a portrait of freedom fighter Harriet Tubman, in 1978, the Postal Service has been issuing its heritage series, African Americans on Stamps—A Celebration of the African American Heritage in the USA. Included are the stamps listed below: