Mr. Ortiz de Montellana highlighted the lack of high-quality science curricula that include minority role models, which is why pseudoscientific curricula have been embraced so readily. He expressed the need for materials that demonstrate to minority students that people who look like them can succeed in science.
A group of predominantly African-American scientists, consisting of biologists and anthropologists, dedicated a significant amount of time during a six-day conference to discussing Afrocentric curricula. These curricula aim to incorporate the contributions of black individuals, both from ancient and modern times, into the teaching of science and other subjects.
The panelists criticized school districts for adopting Afrocentric science curricula that are not rigorous enough. They also called out the scientific community for not taking a stance against such studies. While the intentions behind these curricula are commendable, their methodologies are flawed, according to Joseph L. Graves, an associate professor of evolutionary biology.
The panel was established in 1994 following discussions among black academics at a National Science Foundation conference on workforce diversity in the scientific and technological fields. It comprises experts in various fields, such as biology, anthropology, zoology, and the history and philosophy of science.
The group has received a $20,000 grant from the NSF to organize conferences and present their findings at professional meetings. They also plan to publish a book titled "Science, Pseudoscience, Myth, and African-Americans" to encourage dialogue within the black community about the prevalence of pseudoscience in classrooms and the lack of scientific literacy in society at large. Additionally, they hope to spark discussions on how to increase the number of minority students pursuing careers in science and technology.
The panelists have been particularly concerned about the rise of Afrocentric curricula that promote ideas such as melanism, asserting genetic superiority of black individuals due to higher levels of melanin. They also criticize the inclusion of unscientific historical accounts of the origins of the human species and exaggerated claims regarding the scientific and medical achievements of ancient African societies. Furthermore, they observe an increase in pseudoscientific claims of biological determinism, suggesting that blacks are genetically less intelligent than whites.
Teaching pseudoscience, the practice of presenting scientific theories or methods without a solid scientific foundation, is quite common, according to the organizers of the AAAS symposium. The adoption of Afrocentric science curricula gained traction in predominantly black school districts after the Portland, Oregon, schools implemented it in 1990. School districts in cities such as Atlanta, Detroit, the District of Columbia, and Prince George’s County, Maryland, have embraced the "baseline essay" for science adopted by Portland schools.
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