New Classes Making History

Abby Sheperd, Staff Writer

This semester at Olathe North, students in Black American History are learning history through a new lens, while being taught about the diverse perspectives that make up America’s past. Many students are excited for this class, as it promises to deliver different historical viewpoints. Black American History departs from the traditional history class, where the focus is usually either American or European.

Last year, Olathe North students were sent a survey from the administration, inquiring which history courses interested them the most. The options were Black American History, Women’s Studies, Latino Studies, and Asian Studies. Due to the positive responses, Black American History was chosen to be piloted this semester, and Women’s Studies was chosen to be piloted in the fall of 2019.

These courses will exclusively be offered at Olathe North, and if they are shown to be successful and enough students enroll, Black American History and Women’s Studies will be implemented in all of the Olathe high schools. Students who are enrolled in either of these classes will receive a .5 Social Studies credit.


Olathe North is known for being diverse, and various teachers and students have been trying for years to implement classes that would allow everyone to feel represented. Philip Simons, who teaches the Black American History class, describes the long journey it has taken to make this class happen. “We’ve been trying to get this class for the last six years, since I started working here. I think now is the right time because we have a new principal that advocates for diversity and change in our school that’s needed.”

Simons also credits Olathe North students for the formation of Black American History. “Diversity Council and Black Student Union got together and talked about some of the issues they had, as seniors. They mainly discussed how none of the lessons looked like them.”

Even though they are just a few weeks into school, the 36 students in Black American History’s 2nd hour have already jumped into learning. Junior Allure Adams describes the variety of topics that have been covered so far. “We’ve talked about the struggle of blackface in America, different kingdoms in Africa, which we are working on right now, and different social issues.”

Junior Jamal Davis, who is also taking the class, is excited to be taught black history in a more in-depth approach, saying, “I’m excited to learn about more than just well-known people, like Martin Luther King Jr. or Malcolm X.”

Next fall, Women’s Studies will also be piloted, and will be taught by U.S History teacher Abby Shopper. When the district coordinator reached out to high school history teachers to see who would be interested in teaching these courses, Shopper immediately responded. “I said I would be interested in any of them, so I volunteered myself.”

Just like for Black American History, students seem eager to take Women’s Studies. Junior Abbi Griswold looks forward to the different perspective that will be displayed in this new course. “In a lot of history classes, the ‘men’s’ side is focused on more, so being able to take a class which not only focuses on the history of women, but also the current issues facing women is really exciting,” she explains.

Shopper has seen the excitement for Women’s Studies from students in her own classes, and adds, “It sounds like people will be interested, but I hope it works with schedules, because it may only be offered one hour.”

Black American History’s curriculum is set, while Women’s Studies’ is still a work in progress. Curriculum coordinators in the district as well as history teachers like Shopper are currently working on this. “We are still working on the curriculum, but I think it will cover a pretty broad time period, as well as historical figures from around the world,” she explains.

Adams has enjoyed Black American History so far, and advises other students to follow her example and take the course. “I would recommend this class because it gives students something new for a change, rather than regular history classes, because they seem repetitive sometimes, so this is just a way to break out of that.”

Simons believes there is a lot to be learned from his class, saying, “We don’t know about each other’s culture and heritage. We are very ignorant, so we fill in the spaces and assume. This class will teach you hard facts about the Black American experience.”

For those who are looking to branch out and take different classes next year, consider enrolling in Black American History or Women’s Studies, where students of all backgrounds can come together to understand different perspectives and have important discussions.