The Evolution of Education: History Books are Rewriting History?
Education should, ideally, provide students with a clear lens through which to see the world. However, as time progresses, it is evident that much of the education students receive today is inherently tinted to sway students’ views a certain way. Many schools, especially in the United States, glaze over important historical events.
Early last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance Project administered a multiple-choice survey to 1000 high school seniors. The results revealed that two-thirds of the respondents were not aware that the 13th Amendment ended slavery, and the majority were completely unaware about the Middle Passage. 92% of the respondents did not know that slavery was the primary reason the South receded from the Union.
The historical narrative taught in American schools today still over-emphasizes the experience of white people before and during the Civil War.
According to Jason Daley from the Smithsonian Magazine, “Lessons that divorce slavery from the ideology of white supremacy focus on slavery as a Southern institution, and downplay slavery’s impact on the nation as a whole additionally contributed to a lack of understanding around the origins and impact of slavery in the U.S.” Furthermore, schools fail to connect this period in history to later periods such as Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement, etc.
One high school teacher from Maine responded to these results, saying, “I find it painful, and embarrassing (as a white male) to teach about the history of exploitation, abuse, discrimination and outrageous crimes committed against African Americans and other minorities, over many centuries—especially at the hands of white males.” This problem is one that many teachers face; however, the dismal effort put into overcoming this problem is unacceptable. The teacher goes on to explain, “While [students] are able to begin to understand this important concept [of white supremacy], many struggle with or actively resist it.” America does not have a clean and pretty history, and students should try their best to understand it. Skirting around these topics is definitely not the right way to go.
The members of the Teaching Tolerance Project suggest that schools should try to use more primary accounts to properly teach the stories of those marginalized by history.