'Mumia' lesson plan hasn't been taught in 10 years, Oakland district says

FoxNews.com reported Thursday that a lesson plan asking Oakland Area School District students to draw parallels between late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. But the school district told Philly.com the lesson hadn't been taught since 2004.

A controversial lesson plan that was the subject of a blistering Fox News report Thursday hasn’t been taught in a decade, according to a school district spokesman.

FoxNews.com was reporting that an Oakland, Calif. high school lesson was asking students "to draw parallels between late civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and Mumia Abu-Jamal," who was convicted of shooting Philadelphia police Officer Daniel Faulkner to death on a city street on Dec. 9, 1981.

Maureen Faulkner, the officer's widow, was quoted by Fox News as saying, "It's an absolute disgrace that they're trying to make any comparison."

While the Fox News story said the lesson plan was no longer used, it was unclear if Maureen Faulkner knew it hadn't been taught since 2004. Faulkner did not return a phone call for comment this afternoon.

The lesson plan remained on the Internet until earlier today. 

The course, “Hidden In Plain Sight - Martin Luther King Jr.'s Radical Vision," was part of a civil-rights teaching project called Urban Dreams.

“Urban Dreams is a now-defunct program that was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education back in 1999 and ran until 2004,” Oakland Unified School District spokesman Troy Flint said. “So it’s been out of operation for about a decade now."

The curriculum, authored by teacher Craig Gordon for 11th-graders in the district, made headlines Thursday after Fox News found it online and interviewed Faulkner's widow, who called the lesson plan “a travesty."

Flint said the web pages displaying the lesson plan were still available “because of an oversight in technology management.” The pages were removed Thursday after being brought to the school district’s attention, according to Flint. They were still available through a cached Google search, however.

Flint said that, though the lesson plan predates the tenure of most of the school district’s administrative staff, it appears the course ended with the expiration of the five-year federal grant.

One assignment detailed in the curriculum asked students to compare King “and someone else many believe is currently targeted by the U.S. government, Mumia Abu-Jamal.”

The assignment instructed students to respond to claims that Abu-Jamal has been the target of censorship, noting that his commentaries scheduled to be broadcast by National Public Radio were canceled “under intense pressure form the right wing, including the Fraternal Order of Police.”

“Students who read or hear a few commentaries by Mumia Abu-Jamal may have a similar realization to what they may have experienced when reading some of Martin Luther King’s buried speeches and writings,” the curriculum introduction reads.

“We’re always trying to find ways to engage students and draw connections between more current events that are relatable and historical events about which we’re trying to educate them, and sometimes those attempts may go awry,” Flint said Thursday.

“But certainly this item from 10 years ago does not reflect where we are currently, in terms of instructional practice and curriculum," he said.

Contact Alex Wigglesworth at 215-854-2305 or awigglesworth@philly.com. Follow @phila_lex on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; BreakingNewsDesk@philly.com. Follow @phillynews on Twitter.