Education about race, class, language, and ethnicity, and their roles in society wasn’t a critical part of my school’s curriculum. Every year, I learned about Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad, and the Reverend Martin Luther King’s Civil Rights Movement to end slavery and segregation of African-Americans. What I didn’t learn was about the enslavement of people of many cultures throughout the United States and the Americas; about the oppression and discrimination of millions of immigrants and indigenous peoples. Why didn’t our classrooms provide us with a curriculum that represented all people?
In grade school, Christopher Columbus’s discovering America was honored every year. We read stories and learned songs about Columbus. We memorized the names of his three ship—the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. As I got older, I learned that he never set foot in the United States. It made me angry that Christopher Columbus called the indigenous peoples of the new world “Indians” because he thought he’d landed in Asia even though he didn’t. And to this day, many of our history books and literature still use the term “Indians” when referring to Native Americans. The people of India are “Indians.”
Get this: the indigenous peoples that Christopher Columbus encountered in the new land, he enslaved and punished.
Courses that reflect the history and heritage of different communities such as African-Americans, Latino Americans, Native Americans, and Asian/East Indian Americans should be adopted in all schools. Schools need to do a better job of implementing a comprehensive curriculum that conveys the history and ideas of all cultures in America. Schools need to expand on current resources and include diverse voices. These resources will allow students to be open-minded and engaged in continuous dialogue about issues of the past and issues affecting their lives and communities today.
According to SPLC’s (Southern Poverty Law Center) Teaching Hard History, their research revealed that students aren’t learning enough “real” American history. Teachers want to teach about slavery. However, they are struggling because they don’t get proper support or materials that require extensive knowledge of American history. America was “shaped by slavery and white supremacy.” The educational deficiencies of the past are negatively affecting the present.
We need to create a curriculum in schools that will allow students to bridge differences that currently exist. We must seek opportunities to strengthen curriculum that reflects the diversity of all our communities and cultures. We all have a responsibility. Each of us has the right to be valued as a human being — nothing more, nothing less.