The classes approved were African American Studies at Schofield Middle School and Modern Culture at North Augusta Middle School. These courses will be taught to seventh and eighth graders.
According to the course descriptions attached to the school board agenda, the African American Studies course at Schofield Middle School aims to “provide learners with an opportunity to explore the historical and cultural experiences of African Americans in South Carolina beginning in pre-colonial Africa and ending with current events in South Carolina.”
While Modern Cultural Events will explore “the ties between media and broader cultural and social formations.”
Multicultural Studies in the APEX platform was no longer available due to the lack of demand for the APEX program and was not renewed for the upcoming school year.
Members of the community showed up in support of the classes and the board members made comments to what side they supported.
“We aren’t considering the feelings of Black students,” Eugene White, president of Aiken County Branch of NAACP said. “When we have courses that have certain buzzwords, Black, culture, race, African American, they are identified for evaluation for debate to just determine whether or not they have these element of critical race within them.”
Dr. Patricia Hanks said critical race theory has become such a sensitive topic she does not want the words African American or multicultural studies or course to automatically be related to or put under the umbrella of critical race theory, because she said, “it’s not the same thing.”
There also were people who were against the classes being discussed, and voiced their opinions.
“Having read a great many articles on CRT and the 1619 Project, I can only say that even discussing these two anti-American issues …is no more sane than discussing whether or not arsenic should be included in the student school lunches” Pat Kirk said.
Aiken County School board went into further discussion of the courses and Barry Moulton and Dwight Smith were not pleased with YouTube and CNN10 being used in the Modern Culture course because of a political aspect and voted against approving the course.
Superintendent King Laurence said YouTube and Khan Academy have previously been used in different courses and explained that CNN10 is designed for students to use.
Laurence also said teachers are aware of their policy when it comes to teaching controversial subjects and it comes down to a level of trust they have with the teachers. Dr. Hanks agreed with Laurence.
“I want us to have a trust that our teachers will do what teachers do best, teach the material and allow the students to grasp, understand, develop a sense of abilities on their own to make decision about what they are hearing and learning in school,” Patricia Hanks said.
Sandra Shealy was also concerned about the funding of the courses and said the schools should just focus on helping the students be college and career ready, focusing on the core classes and voted against the approval of classes.
Dr. Hanks said by the course being offered as an elective, one class does not substitute for the other when it comes to core classes.
“We’re not using funds to take away from them getting any extra assistance for what they need,” Hanks said.
Board of Education Chairman Dr. John Bradley said he would like to revisit elective courses as a whole and discuss the impact they have on student’s schedules.
“The country is more divided now than it’s ever been and what we need to be doing is finding ways to come together to emphasize our commonalities, not throwing rocks at each other and looking for differences,” he said.