Students turn to TikTok to fill gaps in school lessons

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By CHEYANNE MUMPHREY, Associated Press

PHOENIX — Mecca Patterson-Guridy wants to learn, but for some subjects, she isn’t always comfortable asking her teachers. So she has been turning to TikTok.

Online, the 17-year-old high school junior in Philadelphia has found videos on social media platforms about protests over police shootings, civic engagement and Black and Latino history in the U.S. The accounts she checks regularly feature segments including “Fast Black History” and “Black Girl Magic Minute.”

The videos, Mecca said, address “things that get overlooked in the classroom.”

Scrutiny from conservatives around teaching about race, gender and sexuality has made many teachers reluctant to discuss issues that touch on cultural divides. To fill in gaps, some students are looking to social media, where online personalities, nonprofit organizations and teachers are experimenting with ways to connect with them outside the confines of school.

The platform has opened new opportunities for educators looking to expand students’ worldviews.

Isis Spann, for one, said she turned to developing digital content after officials in a South Carolina school system discouraged her from sharing stories about some civil rights movement figures with her kindergarten students during Black History Month. She also recalls being told by the principal’s office to remove earrings that said “Strong Black Queen” because they were deemed inappropriate.

“It didn’t sit right with me. I couldn’t help but think that if I weren’t a Black teacher I would be having a different experience,” she said.

Spann left the classroom and now runs a company, “FUNdamentals of Learning,” which provides educational materials for use in-person and online. She said she is grateful to be able to share her ideas independently from the rules of any school or administrator.

“There is no gatekeeper of sorts for social media content,” she said.

In the “Black Girl Magic Minute” videos, 19-year-old Taylor Cassidy, a host on Sirius XM’s TikTok Radio Channel, highlights the stories of women who have inspired her and shares news about Black culture.

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