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Archive for Thursday, June 22, 1995

BRINGING AFRICAN CULTURE INTO CLASSROOM GOAL OF KU INSTITUTE

June 22, 1995

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Sixteen teachers are participating in a Kansas University institute that aims to show them how to incorporate African culture and history into their classes.

The linguistics professor rolls her eyes in abandon when giving an example of one of the dumber questions she's been asked by students before.

"'Now which language do they speak in Africa?' That's kind of one of those no-brainers," said Beverly Mack, Kansas University assistant professor African and African-American studies.

Mack is hoping that question and other wrong stereotypes will eventually be unnecessary as students learn more about Africa.

She is coordinating a program in which 16 teachers -- ranging from first-grade to university-level -- are learning about African history and culture.

The program, "Inside Africa Summer Institute," aims to show teachers how to incorporate African history, politics, geography, religion, art and language into classroom curriculum.

"We don't have Africa as the integral part of the curriculum on the same spectrum ... that we have for any other continent," she said.

"Ultimately, not everyone is going to get a degree in African languages, but a continent with 500 million people -- its size and importance are significant."

About $5,000 for the program came from KU's African and African-American Studies Title VI funding grant through the U.S. Department of Education.

KU scholars are conducting various workshops during the two-week program, which ends Friday. Participants are from as far away as California and as close as Lawrence.

Mack said participants are receptive to learning about Africa and incorporating it into their classrooms. But she said many other teachers don't have an opportunity to learn more about the diversity of the large continent.

"Hopefully, I'll be able to make an educated answer if I have a student who asks me about Africa," said Joy Lominska, a second-grade teacher at Cordley School.

For example, Lominska said she can now accurately tell students that Swahili is not spoken throughout the continent, nor is it even the predominant language.

Africa has five major language groups and about 2,000 local and regional dialects, Mack said.

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