Setting education straight

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Setting education straight

By Kaanan Raja

While speaking to my 13-year-old brother over the weekend, I listened to him rave about finally having a three-day weekend. Even more, his only homework was to write about Christopher Columbus, the man that gave him this gracious Monday off. 

“If it wasn’t for him discovering America and figuring out the world was round, I’d be in school right now,” my brother continuously repeated.

As an older sister and college student, I was caught off-guard. Columbus didn’t really discover America — he more so opened the door for a near mass-murder of the indigenous people already living there. And Columbus didn’t discover the Earth was round either — Aristotle and Euclid had been writing about the world’s spherical shape in earlier centuries.

I was left wondering whether I should pop this patriotic bubble my brother’s school had painted for him. While it left him feeling positive and nationalistic, it also left him incredibly misinformed.

However, it isn’t just my brother whose education left him misguided.

Recently, student protests broke out in Jefferson County, Colorado when a school board proposed a new Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum. This new curriculum for the students wanted to remove lessons that “encourage or condone civil disorder” and instead, want to focus on the parts of history that offered a more “patriotic” view of America.

The students retaliated with civil disobedience; they staged walkout protests against the school board, holding signs up that read “Keep your politics out of my education,” as well as “Teach us the truth.” Teachers, parents and others helped.

Although some educators might want to change curriculum to increase the amount of nationalism within classrooms, it is the ugly parts of history that students need to remember to become more informed, knowledgeable and open-minded.

The proposed curriculum does not condone material that paints America in a negative light or promotes civil disorder. Therefore, topics such as the bombing of Hiroshima and slavery will be skewed to fit the ideals of the school board members, no matter how important the lessons would be to the history class itself. 

After months of protesting, the school board voted to revamp its original AP U.S. History class, but its new proposal no longer specifically mentions the words patriotism nor civil disorder. However, this hasn’t been enough for the students. The students, parents, teachers and community members continue to protest until they receive an education that is not censored at all. 

When we censor education to portray a more positive historic point of view, we downplay the struggles against injustice and discrimination — historical movements such as women’s suffrage and civil rights often do not receive the emphasis they so rightly deserve.  

There is no reason to sanitize history. Instead we should recognize our country for what it is: One that represents both the pinnacle moments of hope and prosperity as well as travesty and atrocity.

However, by omitting certain parts of this history, we are essentially lying to students.

Censoring history will not teach students about instances in which our country has made mistakes, and the consequences of not knowing are quite vast. It’s only through knowing what’s happened before that we are able to become more open-minded and actually learn from what has happened in history.

As philosopher George Santayana eloquently worded it, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

In order to create students who are leaders and activists in their own communities with a consciousness for what is truly just, they must know what pivotal moments occurred in our nation’s past.

As the students of Jefferson County know, it takes a great deal of effort to advocate for our basic rights, such as education — sometimes it requires disregarding authority and disrupting social order.

As college students planning on going out into the world, education should be our source of empowerment. Being well-informed and knowing the truth about certain topics of importance will allow all of us to become the productive leaders and citizens that college is ultimately preparing us to be.

Perhaps this is the reason so many of us have to take some sort of historical or humanities class in order to graduate from the University.

Therefore, with our history education and our capabilities of becoming leaders, it’s time that we stop skewing curriculum taught to us before we become college students.

We should understand that the education we teach the younger generation has a profound impact on the way they contribute back to society. If we want them to be both knowledgeable and open-minded, we need to open their minds with knowledge.

So what should you do the next time a little kid asks if Columbus really did sail the ocean blue searching for America in 1492? Well, you just tell him the truth. I did that for my younger brother.

Kaanan is a freshman in LAS. She can be reached at [email protected]