Top 3 Reasons to Rewrite Our American History Textbooks

When it comes to subjects like math, science, and even English, there are some absolute truths every single school district in this nation must follow. However, when it comes to history or social sciences, there is a lot more wiggle room. Of course, these subjects have factual elements, but the perspective they are taught in can make all the difference. Of all school subjects, these can be the most biased or slanted.

Since the early 1990s there has been a push to make the American history lessons taught in K-12 classrooms more multicultural in their approach. But this movement has not been without its roadblocks. For example, in Texas, a coalition of Hispanic-American educators and over 50 organizations have petitioned the State Board of Education to have Mexican-American history placed on a list of over 200 electives available in Texas high schools. The list in place now includes electives like Web gaming and floral design. The petition is meeting opposition, however, because of the danger of its “leftist” ideals.

Board members also cite the expense. One former member cited that the price tag will equal “millions.” They say that there is no reason to officially add the course since school districts already have the authority to teach it if they want.

Well, with that logic, there was no need to add floral design or Web gaming to the list, either. Yet somewhere along the way that “cost” was justified.

It’s important to continue that push for a more inclusive American history instruction, and here’s why:

  1. The truth is more important than shared nationalistic beliefs. Great as our country is, it is worth acknowledging that aspects of our history are not pleasant. From the truth behind Christopher Columbus’ alleged ruthless ways to the acknowledgment that Thomas Jefferson bore children with his slaves, the Puritanical, patriotic approach to America’s founders has been questioned – at least by some. Is it right to put these men on a pedestal? Is it wrong to point out their flaws? We can still appreciate our country even with the knowledge of a less than clean past.
  2. The term “American” cannot be confined to a singular group. American history has come to mean anything from a migratory European perspective. But the people here are multicultural and multiethnic, and each home country’s history IS a part of the American one. It’s only right to cover all aspects of history, from Mexican-American to Asian-American to African-American and any other type of “American” ones out there. It’s important to know that all groups residing in this country have contributed to the America we know and live in today.
  3. The narrowness in our own history classrooms leads to greater closed-mindedness in the real world. Imagine how much more we would understand if we had a fuller picture of the history of our country. Not just about the this country, but about each other and the world. It may also be easier to develop a shared set of values as Americans if we all had a more comprehensive picture of the country we live in.

Now, there are history and social studies teachers who do a good job presenting more than one side to each story. Those teachers deserve applause for their efforts. But for K-12 students to have a fuller, well-informed view on their own histories and futures, American history textbooks really needs to acknowledge every aspect of America. After all, we often refer to ourselves as a nation of immigrants—our history classes should reflect this, too.

We need to give our students the credit to come to their own conclusions about their country, and not leave out inconvenient details. By essentially censoring what they learn, we do our students a great disservice and our country, too.

What do you think? Is it possible to expand the depth of history classes and still have students with shared values?

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