Harlem School Teaches Kids Real Irish Jig (and Cultural Understanding)

Closing the achievement gap isn't just about test scores. Harlem Academy is teaching kids how to appreciate a diverse world.

Thanks to Siobhan Ni Mhaolagain, a Fulbright scholar from Dublin, Ireland, elementary school students attending Harlem Academy in New York City now know how to dance an Irish jig. In the video above, you can watch Ni Mhaolagain teaching "Some Say the Devil is Dead," an "old Irish jig that has been danced for generations in Irish homes and local parish halls."

I love this video (and it's not just because I'm half Irish). What's most inspiring about it is that it shows the staff at Harlem Academy understands that closing the achievement gap isn't solely about test scores. It's also about ensuring that students have authentic cultural experiences that help break cycles of racial and ethnic prejudice.

Sadly, our schools are still heavily segregated because our neighborhoods are segregated. You need look no further than this week's shocking anti-Asian rant from UCLA student Alexandra Wallace for proof that school experiences that counteract that segregation by building cultural understanding and breaking down prejudices are essential.

But too many education conversations these days focus solely on improving the lives of children of color merely by drilling them on math and reading and making them take standardized tests. While the academics are undoubtedly important, it's refreshing to see a school recognize that students also need to learn how to function in a diverse world. Let's hope that more schools follow Harlem Academy's lead.

video via Huffington Post

via Alan Levine / Flickr

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