Edmund Adjapong, who teaches educational studies at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, has authored a new book calledHip Hop Ed, which gives tips on how to teach students who’ve faced systemic oppression.

“It’s important to encourage students to gain multiple perspectives and also gain a critical lens so they can also be more socially just,” Adjapong said.

In his book, Adjapong calls on teachers to “decolonize” their curriculum and ensure that “there are enough diverse perspectives — enough readings around race, class and gender.” In his own classroom, Adjapong has made concrete changes, highlighting scholars and authors who are people of color and utilizing multimedia, including short videos, podcasts, documentaries and hip hop songs.

As the country faces a racial reckoning, some colleges are reexamining their curriculums and beginning to teach that the founding of America is inextricably tied to slavery and racism. Some professors are calling on their peers and institutions to decolonize their curriculum by incorporating historically marginalized cultures.

Adjapong and other academic activists say colleges should not just issue statements pledging to be more inclusive but commit to bringing students’ varied cultures into the classroom and to making connections to the content. The best place to start, they argue, is with the syllabus and course requirements.

During this summer of social unrest, California State University, the largest public university system in the U.S., hasapproved a new graduation requirement: All students must take an ethnic studies or social justice course. Since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, student and faculty activists at UMass Boston and other colleges have made demands for similar changes.

Still, academics say, the idea of decolonizing the curriculum is more complicated.

“Decolonization is a loaded idea,” said Aireale Rodgers, a PhD student who researches race and racism in college teaching at the University of Southern California.

“The history of U.S. higher ed is really entangled with the entrenchment of a much broader racist, hetero-patriarchal project that’s really seeking, over time, to legitimate the fallacy of white supremacy,” she said.

In her research, Rodgers has found many professors are rethinking what they teach and responding to the movement to guarantee racial equity.

“However, we know that it’s not enough to just have a more diverse syllabus if the faculty themselves don’t actually know how to teach what’s on the syllabus,” she said, pointing out that faculty across the nation are overwhelmingly white and male.

So far, few — if any — faculty senates have endorsed decolonization or even created committees to explore it.

“Decolonization is not going to happen in a committee,” Rodgers said, laughing. “While it requires a commitment to eradicating systems of oppression, anti-racism and uplifting social justice initiatives, it can't be reduced to those things.”

Tony Jack, a sociologist who teaches at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, authoredThe Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students. As statues of Columbus and Confederate generals fall, Jack said he supports the idea of a decolonized curriculum, so that it's not primarily built around Eurocentric values.

“Race and exclusion was written into our laws and practices and our social policy," Jack told WGBH News as part of the Forum for the Future of Higher Education / Aspen 2020 interview series.

Jack does not think that textbooks provide enough history and context for students to truly understand systemic racism and inequality and their consequences.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “I'm from Florida, but I had to be at Amherst College before I learned about Juneteenth. You learn about the 13 colonies as if it was some grand experiment and everything was going wrong, but you barely ever hear about slavery.”

For the first time this summer, Harvard, the oldest college in the country,observed Juneteenth, commemorating a Union general's announcement on June 19, 1865 in Texas that the Civil War was over and the slaves there were free.

Looking ahead to the fall, Jack says colleges need to provide more than grand gestures and statements in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Those statements can be easily seen as greater than they are in the eyes of history,” he said. “We do need the kind of action that would actually put America’s history in context.”

Adjapong, the Seton Hall professor, acknowledges that decolonization is not yet a mainstream idea and many professors might think it’s too heavy of a lift, considering they’re scrambling simply to migrate their existing course work online this fall. But he points to Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States or the smash hit Hamilton as popular examples that have captured the nation’s attention.

“What Lin-Manuel [Miranda] was able to do in terms of having a lot of people of color as part of that cast. I think when we talk about decolonizing, it's more how can we bring others into spaces where they've never been or never been invited or never been welcomed.”