Excluded from history books

by Dana Saxon

A school’s history curriculum can be a sensitive topic. When I was in school, I was frustrated by what I perceived to be an exclusion of people who looked like me and my ancestors from the history books. And I wasn’t the only one who saw it this way. Fact is, throughout the United States (and many countries), students learn history from biased and often glossy perspectives. So unless schools and teachers make a conscious effort to broaden the scope of history lessons, the histories of people of color remain largely marginalized.

Texas, Arizona, and most recently Colorado have made lots of news after school districts announced they were changing approaches to history education. In these cases, what were already largely biased history texts were set to become completely biasedAnd despite national outrage over the issues, it appears only Colorado’s Jefferson County has lightened up (in a slight compromise) on their conservative approach to history education. Arizona’s ban on Mexican American Studies was upheld as constitutional by a federal court in 2013. And Texas has moved forward with a rewritten history curriculum that goes as far as erasing any mention of the words “imperialism” and “slavery.”

Photo courtesy of nydailynews.com, 2012

The direction that some school districts are taking to rewrite history is distasteful. But unfortunately, it’s not shocking. And while it’s important to continue creating a stink about broadening traditional history education, it’s even more important for us to ensure young people (and adults) learn to tell their own stories.

Ancestors unKnown is committed to empowering students to research and learn the stories of history that go much deeper than their history books. Our curriculum teaches students about the lesser known, rarely celebrated, yet significant events of history. And by tying those lessons to the students’ family history research, we’re creating personal connections to history that are unlike anything students get from a traditional textbook.

So while school leaders, teachers and students should continue to demand that districts employ accurate and inclusive history textbooks, we’re going to go ahead and take matters of history back into our own hands.

Find out how you can bring the Ancestors unKnown program to your students: Partner with Ancestors unKnown.

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