Minnesota gets an F in civil rights history

Martin Luther King, Jr. is the guy who did that thing in the 60's.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is the guy who did that thing in the 60's.

The Civil Rights Movement was a big thing that happened, like, a really long time ago. Some people were being mean to other people who had darker skin. At least, that's what New York told us.

Minnesota is one of 35 (!) states that got an F in the Southern Poverty Law Center's new report on the teaching of civil rights history.If that sounds bad, it actually gets worse: Minnesota's also one of 16 states that don't actually require that students learn anything about civil rights.

Only six states got an A or a B in the new study, which found that, in general, the further away from the South you get, the less likely students will be learning about the movement.

If you're already confused, Minnesota, the civil rights movement is the one with Martin Luther King and that lady who rode the bus.

In the preface to the report, former NAACP chairman and history professor Julian Bond writes of when he quizzed one of his college classes on the movement, and found no one knew the first thing.

"None," Bond writes, "could tell me who George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama, was. One thought he was a CBS newsman who had covered the Vietnam War."

Stupid kid. He's got Wallace confused with former CBS anchor Jesse Helms. No, wait, was it Jesse Jackson? Or was Jesse Jackson the guy who played for the Yankees?

States with light green, which covers the Midwest, got D's and F's. (Click to enlarge.)
States with light green, which covers the Midwest, got D's and F's. (Click to enlarge.)

In any event, Minnesota joins virtually the entire Midwest, West, and Northwest in its lousy grade. The nearest state to here where you might actually learn something about, say, Thurgood Marshall is Illinois, one of three states which got a B grade.

Ahead of Illinois are three states that rarely have anything in common: Florida, New York, and Alabama all got A's.

As if to rub the national embarrassment in our faces, SPLC's report includes a sample question from a recent test given to high school students. The kids were given this passage from the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision in the U.S. Supreme Court:

"To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority ... that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone. ... We conclude that in the field of public education separate but equal has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."

The question asked students not to analyze the decision's importance, or name the justice who'd written it. All students had to do get a "complete" on the question was identify that the decision 1) had to do with segregation, and 2) had to do with schools, both of which are quite literally spelled out in the wording itself.

Only 2 percent of them got it right.

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