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HomeNewsArchivesStudents Should Learn V.I. History from an African Perspective, Leaders Say

Students Should Learn V.I. History from an African Perspective, Leaders Say

Sept. 5, 2007 — The goals of a bill to establish a V.I. history textbook commission were praised Wednesday, but the bill itself held in committee for the time being during a hearing of the Senate Education, Culture and Youth Committee in Frederiksted.
“The problem is, we teach Virgin Islands history in the public schools not from a concise textbook but from fragmented pieces of information,” Sen. Liston Davis said.
One or more new books or textbooks on V.I. history would be valuable, agreed Assistant Education Commissioner Lauren Larsen, Humanities Chair Malik Sekou of the University of the Virgin Islands, radio personality Mario Moorhead and civic activist Percival Edwards. They also agreed that there is an absence of textbooks teaching about and from the perspective of the African peoples who, brought to the Virgin Islands against their will, made the islands their home while European powers came and went. A commission to oversee such a project would be valuable, the concluded. But they disagreed on the nature of the commission and what it would do.
Officials with the Education Department believe a commission would be redundant because it already has a group to select textbooks.
“While this bill has many merits, we believe that in its current form it would duplicate many of the mechanisms already in place” Larsen said.
A commission is “an idea whose time has come,” but the product should be a number of textbooks for different academic levels, and perhaps other books and resources on V.I. history, Sekou said. Expertise should be a primary factor rather than politics, and UVI should have a seat at the table, he added.
“A commission should partner with UVI to develop a series of Virgin Islands textbooks,” Sekou said. “It should have individuals who are well versed in Virgin Islands history and culture and work in concert with the UVI. … You cannot read a book or two and be an expert on the subject.”
A commission should include representatives from UVI and Education, as well as scholars in the community such as Moorhead and Edwards, Sekou said.
Moorhead disagreed.
“These are all entities that have demonstrated their failure,” he said. Instead of creating a commission to put together a textbook, Moorhead suggested treating it like a business contract instead.
“A commission could put out a request for proposal within the Virgin Islands to see if we could get individuals who meet the criteria for achieving the goal of a Virgin Islands history text,” he said.
Moorhead emphasized the need to teach the history of the people of the Virgin Islands, as opposed to the history of the U.S. or of the minority of European colonial elites, arguing those histories are already well documented.
“The crucible of our destiny is to teach our children the proud history of resistance and struggle of their ancestors,” he said. “I don’t know how this particular structure would accomplish this.”
All agreed the existing textbooks were limited and out of date.
Clear de Road is the main textbook, and that came out in 1983,” Sen. Terrence “Positive” Nelson said.
Sen. Carlton “Ital” Dowe, the bill’s sponsor, said he was glad the discussion had begun, regardless of the outcome for his particular bill.
“There is no rush,” Dowe said. “We will move to hold the bill in committee and discuss it again. In the end, we don’t need to agree on everything. But we must have dialogue.”
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