Offering a course that provides critical knowledge of Black communities and their often-forgotten stories, AP United States History teacher Scott Wolfinger will teach Pine View’s first African-American History Honors course this fall. The course is still open for student enrollment.
As America witnessed a nationwide reckoning with race following the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others, Pine View students and alumni formed a Facebook group that aimed to bring meaningful change and awareness to Pine View’s struggles with racial disparities and the ability to attract a student body representative of our community.
At the same time, Wolfinger knew he had to do more to educate his students about the stories that are often left out of history books.
“I felt that I hadn’t done enough,” Wolfinger said. “I realized that by offering this course, I can help students understand why we’re facing these problems today.”
Wolfinger approached Pine View Administration about creating a new course that focuses on African-American history and the many problems we still face, acknowledging that many students still do not know about events like the Tulsa Race Massacre.
Upon being approached by Wolfinger, Principal Dr. Stephen Covert was excited by the prospect of bringing this course to Pine View, as he had previously been eyeing a course catalog that included African-American history courses.
While he acknowledges that more must be done in addition to the new course, Covert is excited about Pine View’s newest class.
“After many students organized a petition and encouraged us to make changes, I think this is a concrete step in the right direction,” Covert said. “Anything we can do to bring more awareness will build on all of the hard work DIGS, Diversity Council and other clubs have put in.”
Covert hopes the class will set in motion more progress at Pine View. He plans to contact Sarasota County Schools’ new superintendent, Dr. Brennan Asplen, about bringing universal screening to every school in the district.
“We need to level the playing field,” Covert said. “The kids are the key to changing our reality.”
Since the course is new to Pine View, Wolfinger has spent his summer studying African-American history in detail, so he is prepared to facilitate educated discussions and projects with students.
An honors course, the class will focus more on in-depth discussions and projects, rather than a textbook-based curriculum. While the class will follow a loose schedule, Wolfinger says the discussions and projects in class will not follow a strict deadline like a typical history course.
Pine View students see the course as a positive step in the right direction, acknowledging that the course goes further than Pine View has in the past.
“This commitment to start an African American History course will most likely be a lot of work for those involved, and perhaps met with contention or backlash—which I think speaks for itself,” twelfth-grader Bethel Schandorf-Lartey said. “In an environment where a strong education is one of our greatest assets, I think that it is also a key to beginning to understand and solve the problems Black students have recognized in our community.”
Other students are glad the course will be offered, but hope effort is also put towards educating students about Black history in other courses.
“I think it’s good that Pine View is taking steps towards educating students about history that is really important for this moment,” said twelfth-grader Grace Kim. “But, I really hope that this isn’t the only step that we take… that kind of education needs to be incorporated into other courses as well.”
Wolfinger wants his students to leave his course with an understanding of why the United States has found itself in its present situation. Why is there racial tension today? Why are African-Americans frustrated?
“It doesn’t give answers. In a way, it just gives an understanding. And, I think that’s what we need — more compassion and more understanding,” Wolfinger said.
African-American History Honors will take place fifth period. Students who are interested in enrolling in the course should contact Pine View administration, as students may change their schedule to enroll in this course.
Editor’s note: a previous version of this article had a caption that erroneously stated, “Scott Wolfinger poses by his African-American history library.”