I'm 21 years old and I've spent 18 of those years in school. I've spent far more time receiving an education than not, as have many of my peers, and those teachings have been critical in making me the individual I am today. However, the older I grow and more life experiences I have, the more I am recognizing that not everything I have learned is true. I'm surrounded by individuals who have gone to different schools, had different educators and learned things that vary from the information that was taught to me.
Who decides what we learn and how we learn it? If two students learn different material, whose knowledge is "right?" It's important to recognize the bias that permeates our education system and to continue to question the material we learn in order to validate it.
Take, for example, the subject of history. It's so important to communicate history in order to prepare for a better future. It's also important to recognize that history is not always positive. Who decides and writes the history that we are taught and our children will be taught? My personal education was informative in teaching about the errors of other nations, but it portrayed the actions of the United States in a positive light. Though there are so many great aspects to our nation, it's unrealistic to deny the dark history that has taken place in our country.
“The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.”
McGraw Hill printed this caption in their copy of a World Geography textbook that over 150,000 Texas students received that year. Many of those students even mistook the caption for the truth. In a society so diverse, where each family teaches different truths, it is the role of the education system to provide an honest, realistic portrayal of the history of our nation, so that each individual can learn consistently. Although McGraw Hill, upon complaint, instantly apologized regarding their mischaracterization of slavery, the damage was already set in place.
I had my own eye-opening experience regarding history education. I went to a well-off high school in Cary, North Carolina where I took various history classes. I then attended NC State University, where I took a life-changing course entitled Interdependence and Race. In the course, I read the book "Blood Done Sign My Name." Written by Timothy Tyson, the book was a recollection of growing up in North Carolina during Jim Crow laws and intense racial turmoil. The book opened my eyes to the real history of the state that I grew up in. It changed my life.
I took various history courses, but I never learned about the Wilmington race riots. I thought I learned about segregation, but I wasn't informed that it extended so much further than merely having separate water fountains and bus seats. Hidden from my knowledge was the gory truth of violence, of discrimination, of brutal police and societal injustice.
Hidden from me was the true history of my hometown, of my state, and of my nation.
I wasn't the only one having this reaction. My fellow students, upon learning this information, were appalled. Many cried. Anger, frustration, disappointment, and confusion took over as we attempted to make sense of the discrepancies between the knowledge imparted to us and the actual truth.
America is a great nation. It is a melting pot of different cultures whose melange serves to diversify our strengths and form an even stronger society for generations to come. America also has its faults.
By withholding the true accounts of history and censoring the knowledge imparted to students, our educators and schools systems are doing this country and its people a great disservice. Each state fears imparting knowledge upon its citizens that illustrates negative aspects of that region. As a whole, the United States education systems seek to overlook the dark history that outlines our past as a nation, while focusing on the negative aspects of other countries.
During my time in high school, I couldn't tell you many specifics regarding North Carolina's history. All I really knew about slavery was that there were good people that tried to stop it and that Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. were instrumental in the movement towards equality. I was taught that Japanese internment camps were once a thing, but they really weren't that brutal, a detail that I have come to realize is far from the truth.
I was also taught the gory, upsetting details of the Holocaust. I knew all about both World Wars, and the negative aspects of each of our non-ally nations. I was taught so much regarding the mistakes made by other countries, all while wearing a blindfold toward my own.
It's time to tell the truth. In order to move forward and fortify our diverse, multiracial nation, we need to practice what we preach in regards to justice and the truth and humbly recognize the dark parts of American history. Slavery, racism, Native American genocide, Japanese oppression, gender inequality--these are all topics that need to be recognized, taught and analyzed so that future generations are educated enough to refrain from making such mistakes. Attempting to erase our history is not going to be an effective way of moving forward as a nation. Education is what will help to eradicate bigotry and prejudice from our society, but it is only effective when the information relayed is entirely truthful, displaying the good and the bad for students to learn from.
Knowledge is power. There are some hard times ahead, but with proper understanding, we can find the strength to overcome and progress. We have eradicated racial discrimination from our laws, but the after-effects of inequality plague us still today.
Only the truth can set us free.