in progress edited by Daniel
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)
year, Molefi Kete Asante, a professor of African American Studies at Temple
University, publishes “The Afrocentric Idea in Education” in which he
outlines a new approach to educating society’s Black youth.
This approach, commonly referred to as 'Afrocentricity', arose in
response to the public outcry denouncing the inequitable educational
opportunities afforded to Black students, especially in inner-city schools (Cooksey,
The development of the Afrocentric approach to teaching African American
students wee inspired by the principles established by Carter G. Woodson in his
classic work, The Mis-education of the
Woodson’s recognition almost 70 years ago, that something was terribly
wrong with the way African Americans were educated, was (and still is) the
driving force behind the Afrocentric idea in American education.
Like Woodson, Asante believed that African Americans historically have
been educated away from their own culture due to a predominant Eurocentric
(White) perspective in American education. In The
Afrocentric Idea in Education, Asante argued that almost all experiences
discussed in American classrooms were approached from the viewpoint of White
perspectives and history, to the detriment of African American students who felt
alienated in the classroom.
Therefore, Asante concluded, for education to be meaningful within the
context of American society, it must address the traditions and historical
experiences of Africa and African Americans.
In his book, Asante called for a new paradigm in education within
He proposes the Afrocentric approach in education to deal with the
alienation and dislocation of Black children in the American school system.
Afrocentricity, he explains, is
a frame of reference wherein phenomena are viewed from the perspective of
African Americans. In education this means that teachers provide Black
students the opportunity to study different subjects from a perspective that
uses Africa and the societal contributions of African Americans as its reference
students learn about the contributions that people of African descent have made
to human history.
Teachers, therefore, do not marginalize African American children by
causing them to question their own self-worth because their people’s history
is rarely discussed in the classroom. Thus, argues Asante, Black students would
be placed in a stronger position to learn when they see themselves within the
context of the curriculum rather than at its margin.
The implementation of an Afrocentric curriculum, therefore, would not
only engage African American children and give them a better understanding of
their historical backgrounds, but it would also improve their educational
achievements and raise their self-esteem.
Some scholars, however, have criticized the Afrocentric approach to
those who have challenged the Afrocentric theory was Arthur Schlesinger, a
history professor at the City University of New York. In his article, The Disuniting of America, published in 1991, he disputed the notion
that a living connection still exists between Black Americans and Africa, the
land of their forefathers.
According to Schlesinger, that bond is broken since the ancestors of
African Americans came to America over three hundred years ago. Schlesinger also
argued that there are inaccuracies and distortions about the claims made by
advocates of Afrocentricity regarding the role Africa played in shaping world
Schlesinger contended that an Afrocentric curriculum would not bode well for
Afrocentricity, he claimed, would not only lead to divisiveness among
ethnic groups, but it would also transform history into a therapeutic discipline
in order to raise the self-esteem of African Americans.
Asante’s rebuttal to critics of the Afrocentric approach to education
was that the aim of the Afrocentric curriculum is to make America flourish not
to divide it. He
insisted that America has long been divided with regard to the unequal
educational opportunities afforded to Black children.
Strategies, therefore, must be put in place to give African American
children greater opportunities for learning.
Asante argued that the type of assistance the Black child needs is as
much cultural as it is academic.
Asante, Molefi Kete (1991). “The Afrocentric Idea in Education.”
Journal of Negro Education 60 (2): 170-180
Cooksey, Ben (1993).
“Afrocentricity: Will This New Approach To Education Provide The
Answers To A System Plagued With Inequalities?”
Journal of Law and Education 22 (1): 127-133.
3. Schlesinger, Arthur M. (1991). The Disuniting of America. American Educator, Winter.
4. Woodson, Carter G. (1990). The Mis-education of The Negro. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, Inc.
by Janice Jones
Citation: Author (2002). Title. In Daniel Schugurensky (Ed.), History of Education: Selected Moments of the 20th Century [online]. Available: http://fcis.oise.utoronto.ca/~daniel_schugurensky/assignment1/ (date accessed).
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