The American education system lies to children. About the things this country has done and still does. The United States, and the West at large, has controlled the human story for hundreds of years. It’s not hard at all to shift the narrative when you’ve colonized well over half the world.
I’m concerned. Because I know what kids learn in school. I know what they dont learn. Especially in under-privileged schools and schools in very conservative States, that enjoy teaching a watered down and racist reinvention of actual history.
They teach that Martin Luther King loved peace, and that apparently, White people loved him. Even though he was assassinated by a white man. Malcolm X was a violent radical, because apparently responding to being dehumanized with anger isn’t an appropriate response. Rosa Parks sat on a bus because she was tired. And now Black people are free and can drink out of water fountains and eat in all diners, the end.
In 2015, Roni Dean-Burren, a Texas mother took to social media after reading a description beneath an image in her child’s textbook. It addressed slaves as “workers” who were “brought” to southern America to “work” on plantations. There is no way this language was not purposeful.
There are plenty of teachers who don’t use district issued text books, I know a lot of them. I‘ve heard endless stories about the failures of the education system. From racist teachers, both overtly and covertly, to schools in the hood using ten year old books and ancient computers. All while the schools a town over have five sports, art, music, monthly field trips and dozens of scholarship opportunities because their parents are wealthier and create more in taxes.
Nicholas Ferroni, a high school teacher in New Jersey, doesn’t use the textbooks issued by the district. He says:
“We indirectly teach kids to be racist and sexist by downplaying the roles of specific groups, too many textbooks enable this thinking. They can make that sizable of an impact.”
Augustin Leredo, a teacher in Houston, Texas, said he would never use a certain book, Mexican American Heritage commissioned by the State Board of education in his class. What is heartbreaking about his sentiment, is that the book was approved after the Texas State Board of Education voted to add Mexican American studies to the curriculum.
The only book submission came in from a conservative publishing press, that apparently hired writers who didn’t specialize in, nor were even reasonably knowledgeable about Mexican studies. The book allegedly claimed, before it was approved to be taught in schools at least, that the 1960s-era Chicano Movement “adopted a revolutionary narrative that opposed Western civilization and wanted to destroy this [American] society.”
“Maybe I’ll introduce it to my students as how not to teach Mexican American studies.” Leredo said.
Even when we win, we lose.
“Public education wasn’t created to teach children the truth. It was created to teach children the version of the truth that states want them to know.”
I’m sure it’s not surprising that books vary based on where they’re being taught. Yes, textbooks taught in the South are more conservative than books taught elsewhere. Social studies and history textbooks are written and distributed based on the beliefs of a demographic. Or more precisely, the beliefs of the Board of Education in each place. That means the text books kids used in Texas, are not the same books I used in New Jersey. Is the truth somehow different here than it is there? Of course not, but the perception of it is.
Public education wasn’t created to teach children the truth. It was created to teach children the version of the truth that states want them to know.
In the article “Two States. Eight Textbooks. Two American Stories.” by Dana Goldstein, published in the NY Times, the differences between California and Texas Social Studies textbooks published after 2015 are analyzed.
“The books have the same publisher. They credit the same authors. But they are customized for students in different states, and their contents sometimes diverge in ways that reflect the nation’s deepest partisan divides.”
She notes that books taught in conservative areas focused often on patriotism and highlighting the role Christianity played in American Society. More liberal places were more concerned with teaching about marginalized groups, slavery, and social issues. There were obvious themes.
What children learn in school and during childhood in general molds them. The point of school is not only to educate students, but also to prepare them for integrating into society. How can we expect kids to grow up into empathetic, aware, and logical adults if schools do not teach them what’s real?
I once heard a white women explain that “political themes” and racially motivated incidents aren’t explored in schools because they are too extreme for children. This argument falls short, because children are exposed to mature content all the time. Not only through media, but in their lives. The attitude that children do not need to, or do not have the right to be taught the truth because they are “too young,” is ridiculous.
Sesame Street is a wonderful example of an unconventional educational resource that tackles serious issues well. Through the age appropriate means of puppets, songs, and sensitive but clear and concise conversation, Sesame Street explain important subjects like racism, homophobia, and poverty to small children. Magic, I know.
I promise, it’s not impossible. Click this link to watch Elmo have a conversation with his dad Louie about racism and why people are presently protesting:
If a little black girl is old enough to be told she can’t wear her hair in an afro becasue its against school dress code, she’s old enough to learn about the history of racial discrimination in schools. If a little white boy is old enough to call his classmate a nigger, he is old enough to learn about the history of weaponized language against black people. If George Floyds daughter was old enough to have her fathers life ripped away at the hands of a cop and grow up without a dad, then every last one of her classmates, is old enough, and should be obligated to, learn about the racist history of policing.
It’s just that simple. Racism does not discriminate against children. And children are not exempt from benefiting from, or perpetuating racist ideas. Tamir Rice’s killer did not spare his life becasue he happened to be a child, and racism does not cease to exist just because schools fail to educate students about it. Would you rather your kids learn about it in class, or somewhere else.
“The damn books have to say, that Donald Trump threatened to call the military on rioters, and order it to shoot them, for stealing things. Because he saw those rioters as barely more than things themselves. And that is the truth.”
Some would argue that teaching a “liberal” curriculum in schools is just as bad as teaching a purely conservative one. First of all, I am advocating for the truth to be taught in schools. If the truth so happens to fall closer to what “liberals” stand for, then so be it.
My point is not that schools should indoctrinate children into one way of thinking, it’s that they should indoctrinate them out of racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic ideologies. How is it ok that schools have been complicit in the spread of racism since they came into existence in America, but it’s not okay to radically change the agenda so that they are no longer racist?
It is not enough to give children a warped, watered down version of history. This approach grooms grown people who fight against the truth in favor of blindly accepting what they were taught. America can not teach monumental, serious, painful times like 2020 in a passive way that downplays real issues. It must stop.
The books have to say, clearly, that the Corona virus disproportionately affected Black people. They have to say that even during an international pandemic, in which millions of people died, millions more were ill, and virtually everyone on Earth was effected, Black people were still being gunned down it the streets. They must say that large groups of white people protested social distancing but not the death of Breonna Taylor. That they cared more about participating in the virus of racism than they did about not contracting or spreading COVID-19.
The books have to say that White women called the police on Black men, knowing good and well the possible consequences. Knowing damn well the centuries of fear and brutality they were calling upon aswell. That White men still hunted black people in pickup trucks. Cops still murdered Black people and had the audacity to complain when they retaliated. The damn books have to say, that Donald Trump threatened to call the military on rioters, and order it to shoot them, for stealing things. Because he saw those rioters as barely more than things themselves. And that is the truth.
The truth doesn’t care what you believe.
When my future children learn about this strange, historic year, I want them to learn the truth. I want them to know all of the ugly. So that they know what must be done to fix it. Children should be taught the truth so that they come to see the inequalities within the world all on their own. No agenda necessary. The truth is easy to see when you are provided with all of the information. It’s ignorance, that creates false beliefs.