Reflection by Dominique Gilliard:
Watch this video.
In the midst of exploring the existing impediments to accessing quality education domestically, one of the most pervasive yet least talked about hindrances to doing this is a twofold quandary which manifest itself daily within history classes across the country. This problem is both an institutional injustice and a psychological hindrance which many students are forced to grapple with daily.
In history class, students are given a designated curriculum that is both preselected and approved by school boards and legislative leaders across the country. These leaders make critical decisions about which books will get passed down to students as curriculum and in turn what information is both included and excluded from our country’s history textbooks. Within history classes, students are told that they are learning U.S. History, a history which is charged with the responsibility of reflecting this country’s historical contributors and population demographics in a holistic manner (as best and as realistically as can be done within a given semester). Students are told in classes that they are learning about the people who helped build this country and who helped make it into the prosperous nation that it is today. They are taught in-depth about whom these people were and the contributions they’ve made to our nation.
Therefore, there are two problems inherent within this structure of educating students. The first is the institutional problem, within these classes, students learn history from a curriculum which essentially focuses exclusively on the good characteristics and aspects of our country’s history. They receive a romanticized version of U.S. history which disproportionately highlights the positive aspects of this country’s history, which in turn fosters pride within our students as U.S. citizens. This is a good thing and undoubtedly should be a core aspect of what is taught within history classes throughout the land. Students and American citizens should take pride in a number of privileges that we are entitled to as U.S. citizens. However, teaching history in this manner is also very problematic because the reality is that not everyone within this country has always been entitled to these privileges and not all aspects of this country’s history are positive. This brings into play the second issue, which is the fact for many students the history presented on a daily basis, depicted as representative of this country and its key contributors, does not reflect or include the historical contributions of people who look like them or who come from the communities in which they derive from. These people and communities have all made essential contributions to our current U.S cultural landscape and successes. Not teaching this strips these students, particularly students of color and women, of their opportunity to have history endanger pride concerning their racial, ethnic, and gendered creational distinctions. Moreover, teaching history in this manner subconsciously suggest to students that the disproportionally white, male, upper to middle class history that is being taught, is real U.S. history and history’s and courses which focus on the experiences and contributions of others outside of this metanarrative are either lesser histories, accounts which are anti-American in nature, or is learning that is just important to those specific groups being detailed within them, while this history, “U.S. History” is for everyone.
This video details a recent law passed in Arizona that bans ethnic studies programs in the state. Similarly, the states of Texas and Tennessee are currently in the midst of discussions to remove aspects of U.S. History from textbooks which some have labeled as liberal agendas. Things such as taking the words slavery and imperialism out of students textbooks and replacing them with less “offensive” or “politically charged” words within student history curriculum. While it is easier to avoid talking about the troublesome nature of aspects of our histories past, it is not right. It is also not right to label those who think it is important to teach and have students learn a holistic version of U.S. History to be labeled as anti-American.