Cheshire to conduct black and Latino studies


Following the Black Lives Matter protests last summer, local school districts have been thinking about new and innovative ways to educate their student bodies about diverse cultures and backgrounds in order to dissolve racial differences.

In July last year, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont issued a state mandate that all public high schools in Connecticut must offer a Black and Latin Studies course by 2022. Cheshire, however , decided to start offering the course even earlier.

“Connecticut is the first state to offer this program and we’re really excited to see where it takes us,” said Deputy Superintendent Marlene Silano. “We thought that if it’s important enough for our students to teach in 2022, it’s important enough to start teaching now. We understand that there is a need for something like this, given the lack of diversity in our city. It’s a tangible way for us to let our students of color know that we see and hear them.

Introducing this course, according to Silano, will help students from diverse backgrounds to better understand their culture, while also educating students about the variety of cultures and origins that exist around the world.

“This course will support our overall academic social and emotional learning goals and allow us to examine prejudices within ourselves,” added Silano. “Learning about other cultures in this format will also help educate our students in the world around them.”

Professors Dawn DeMeo and Erin Griffiths are tasked with teaching the course, which they are happy to do. Griffiths, a history professor in the United States, has been trying to make his curriculum more inclusive for some time.

“Over the years, I have worked to make America’s history curriculum more inclusive and it has been a work in progress,” she said. “However, this (past) summer, like many teachers, I recognized the urgency of this need and worked to further diversify the program and create an anti-racist classroom.

“When I shared my job with my head of department, he told me that the CHS was getting ready to implement this course in the 21–22 school year, and I jumped on the opportunity, ”she continued.

DeMeo, who is currently a professor of literature, has recently taken a more active role as a leader in the school community.

“I too have worked to diversify the texts I teach and I am also the advisor to Rams Against Racism and I was aware of creating an anti-racist classroom,” added DeMeo. “Ms. Griffiths and I have been talking for a long time about teaching an American Studies class together. It was the perfect opportunity to mix history and art / literature in one class and I am very interested in the subject.

The course will guide students through topics such as African empires, slavery, the American Civil War, and the United States’ involvement in Puerto Rico, all of which Lamont and his team deemed necessary for the students learn.

“Our presentation of the material will be tailored to our students and what we know to be their knowledge base,” Griffiths explained. “The course is designed in such a way that we will provide a framework of history and culture, and then students will use their personal inquiry to explore the facets of each unit on their own so that they can delve deeper into topics – history, art and culture. – as he appeals to them.

While the course has yet to launch, Griffiths and DeMeo have confirmed that students are already interested in the material and hope that students take the course with an open mind.

“The course is guaranteed everywhere,” DeMeo said. “Statewide, schools were at all different levels to provide education about the culture and origins of a large part of our population. The course is supposed to be a great equalizer and systematize equity between schools and ensure that everyone in our state receives the same basic knowledge.

The course will be offered to CHS students in the next academic year as a full elective course.

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Kehoe Young

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