People complain constantly about the public school system. Standardized testing, weight of grades, mental health, how much teachers actually care. But my argument about what's wrong with it is a bit different.
When I was in fifth grade my class did what we called a wax museum, where we each researched a explorer, made a tape recording about their life, then dressed up like the explorer and pretended to be wax figures in a museum for younger students to come visit. I'd had my heart set on being Sacajawea since my sister did the wax museum the year before, but when the list was handed out of who we could research, she wasn't on their. When I asked my teacher if I could do her anyway she said no because she wasn't an explorer, when I tried to argue that she was my teacher claimed that she couldn't be because "she never crossed any oceans" neither did Lewis or Clark, and they were both on that list. At the time I took this to be an attack against women and became personally offended. Now I believe it had more to do with her status as Native American, but either way it was my first experience with blatant discrimination, and it was in a school.
When I was in eighth grade a Muslim class mate of mine got up and walked out of his English class after the substitute teacher asked him if he was in the religion that "killed their own family members." Though the story had made it's way around school in under an hour (and mind you this was in the days before smartphones were popular and it was hard to get away with texting in class) and there was quite an uproar among the students, the sub stayed the entire day and was not reprimanded for her behavior until the Muslim council of Minneapolis complained to the school district and threatened to sue.
In my sophomore year of high school I took an AP history class in hopes to get a more diverse idea of America's history. My favorite subject in history has always been WWII because of the amount of change it sparked in America. Fly Girls, WAX, the Tuskegee Airmen, Navajo Code Talkers, so much happened that changed the world for the better. Yet when we reached that unit we didn't talk about any of these groups, and the only one mentioned in the book was a single paragraph on the Navajo Code Talkers where the information was inaccurate.
In addition to that during our unit on the wild west we spent more time discussing how barbed wire ruined the cowboy way of life then we did about the huge number of African American cowboys who found work out there following the Civil War or how the west was “won” through massacres and long fought wars with the Native Americans. No reservations were mentioned, or broken treaties, by either parties. We only spent one day talking about the many wars with Native American’s over land, and had one discussion about how sampling was actually used by both caucasian and Native Americans as a way to terrorizing each other. This is a whole group of people that makes up a significant amount of America’s population that isn’t mentioned in our history books, not even in a college level one.
Speaking of high school, I could count the amount of people from different ethnic groups at my high school on my hands. I don't blame my school for this, I don't blame anyone for this, I lived in a primarily white community, that's no one's fault and I never really thought about it until one day when I overheard a student from the year under me trying to convince his friend not to quite track because if she did he'd be "the only African on the team." It was a sick realization for me that that was a point of contention for him, that the idea of him being the only non-white person on a sports team would make him uncomfortable. Granted I didn’t know him very well, but what I did know of this classmate was that he was a really nice respectable guy. In addition to being on the track and football team he was also in our schools business club and had won some state competition for it when he was only a freshman. There was no reason for him to be judged or to feel uncomfortable, though apparently he was.
There have been many small instances like that in my school career, but these are the major ones that have come to mind for me. It wasn’t just my school either. Everyone I talk to has had stories like mine, of things that have either happened to them personally or experienced. Schools were desegregated decades ago, and I would not go as far as to say racism is still part of the curriculum or tolerated on school grounds, but discrimination is. We are still being taught two dimensional lessons about about a spherical world in a place that is supposed to make us the best we can possibly be. All other arguments about what needs to change in the school system are temporary problems, they are severe, but they'll be a distant memory in an adult's mind as little as a year after graduation. This problem however, the toleration of discrimination in schools, can, and will silently affect our world for years to come.