Two master's students from Penn GSE have been selected as fellows in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project. Abdul-Qadir Islam and Rebecca Kuss will be part of the multi-year initiative to improve the teaching of the history of slavery in K-12 schools across the nation.
Jeff Frantz, Penn GSE Associate Director of Communications
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Two master's students from the University Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) have been selected as fellows in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project. Abdul-Qadir Islam and Rebecca Kuss will be part of the multi-year initiative to improve the teaching of the history of slavery in K-12 schools across the nation.
Islam and Kuss – along with nine other fellows from four other colleges and universities – will curate historical documents and other teaching materials on American slavery to provide teachers with a readily-available resource of free, trusted and well-researched materials about the topic. The graduate students will spend their spring semester conducting the research.
“Children’s reading books and textbooks have increasingly been criticized for their treatment and portrayal of American slavery,” said Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance. “When it comes to slavery, we see too many instances of the subject being glossed over, minimized or completely distorted. It’s a problem that leaves teachers without meaningful tools to teach this important period in American history.”
In 2015, a McGraw-Hill Education geography textbook came under fire for describing enslaved Africans as “workers.” Months later, Scholastic Inc. was forced to pull a children’s book depicting slaves as happy and eager to please their owners. Many K-12 educators also are not aware of the dramatic changes in scholarship about slavery published in the last two decades.
Teaching Tolerance is dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation’s children. It produces and distributes anti-bias education resources at no cost to teachers, including Teaching Tolerance magazine, online curricula and professional development resources, and multimedia teaching kits that introduce students to various civil rights issues.
The other fellowship awardees are Ran Cronin and Zoe Quinn (Salem State University); Colin McConarty (Boston College); Carly Muetterties, Ryan Lewis and Kenny Stancil (University of Kentucky); and Lauren Henley, Brandon Wilson and Zoe Sissac (Washington University-St. Louis).
The Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Alabama with offices in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi, is a nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry, and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society. For more information, see www.splcenter.org.
The Graduate School of Education (GSE) at the University of Pennsylvania is one of the nation’s premier research education schools. No other education school enjoys a university environment as supportive of practical knowledge building as the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania. The School is notably entrepreneurial, launching innovative degree programs for practicing professionals, unique partnerships with local educators, and the first-ever business plan competition devoted exclusively to educational products and programs. For further information about Penn GSE, please visit www.gse.upenn.edu.