America’s History of Erasing History

By Eunice Choi
Fresno, Calif.

Many often say, “The past is the past.” So why study history? Through history, we can learn how past societies have changed and evolved based on the blueprint of our actions and mis-takes. Understanding previous accounts of history is essential. But many in the United States seem to think that our students shouldn’t learn about America’s history with depth and breadth. 

In American schools, history is being left behind and erased. As schools increasingly pro-mote STEM disciplines and states lack in providing enough support for the pedagogy, many students are stifled from learning history. According to a study conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2017, a mere 8 percent of high school seniors surveyed were able to pinpoint slavery as the principal motive of the Civil War.  Research from the SPLC further reveals that more than 90 percent of teachers are “comfortable” with teaching the history of slavery, and 40 percent of teachers believe that states do not provide sufficient support to this instruction. A whopping 58 percent of teachers find textbooks inadequate for teaching. 

Not only is our education system at fault in teaching the course, there is also a tendency to simplify and distort certain events and timelines of the past by “whitewashing” the material. In Texas,  a 2015 state-adopted textbook referred to enslaved people as “immigrant workers.” It was not until 2018 when the Texas State Board of Education revised the curriculum to finally highlight that slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War. Even though Texas did the right thing by revising their curriculum in 2018, it’s a case of two steps forward, one step back. In July, the Texas Senate passed a bill to remove requirements that schools teach specific writings from Martin Luther King, Jr., Susan B. Anthony, and Cesar Chavez. 

Of course, it’s not easy to learn about the oppression of marginalized communities in the classrooms. But these events are an imperative part of America’s history. Its continuation can have far-reaching consequences, too. We choose to continue to oppress minority communities with the perpetuation of historical myth-making. The only way we can learn and eventually move on from the past is if we accept the truth and reflect on our mistakes to foster a better society from these bygone days. And it starts with education.

Students are constantly told that the truth can set us free. Then why do countless in-structors, parents, and officials find it challenging to accept the truth? This educational malpractice isn’t history, it’s a false narrative. Students must understand how the present ties back to the history of the United States in order to become better citizens and scholars. Historical accuracy is needed, and this flawed mindset must be fixed now.

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