Our Whitewashed K-12 Curriculum 

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A bookshelf filled with young adult to educational literary texts.

Melina Quispe, Social Media Manager

When I was a child our educational system convinced me to praise figures such as Christopher Columbus, Susan B. Anthony, and Abraham Lincoln. The educational system failed me, and they failed to tell me the complete truth about the history of this country.

For years I believed that Christopher Columbus was a great man who discovered the New World and that Susan B. Anthony was a woman who marched for ALL women to be granted the right to vote. I believed that Abraham Lincoln was an abolitionist who wanted to end the suffering of African Americans by ending slavery. 

The truth is Christopher Columbus killed, enslaved, and raped Native Americans. Susan B. Anthony was a racist who once stated that she would “sooner cut off her right hand than ask the ballot for the black man and not for the woman.” Some people may argue that she was misquoted. On the other hand, when one is friends with a white supremacist such as Belle Keally who believed that only virtuous women deserved the right to vote. We can all gather that Anthony is compliant to racists by default. Abraham Lincoln was not actually an abolitionist and did not believe that black people should have the same rights as white people. 

He was not an abolitionist because he emancipated slaves as a war measure. As stated in an article called “Abraham Lincoln and the Abolitionists” by George Smith, Lincoln believed that emancipation would suppress the rebellion also known as the Confederates.

When I found out about all of these truths, I felt lied to by my textbooks which resulted in a lot of confusion. I felt differently about all of these public figures and was upset at the fact that some of them had a day to commemorate their “contributions.”Their “contributions” led to more ignorance and destruction rather than the positive fairytale that I have been forced to believe in when I was younger.  Books such as Prentice Hall Classics: A History of the United States gives a very vague history of slavery and just tells us that they were sold for goods. 

An article “How history textbooks reflect America’s refusal to reckon with slavery” stated that a lot of textbooks nowadays generalize slavery by calling slaves indentured servants. (Cynthia Greenlee). Even teachers were disappointed with the textbooks they were using to teach their students.

 A 2018 report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, found that 58 percent of teachers were not happy with the textbooks they were required to teach their students and 40 percent said that their state did not support them going more in-depth about slavery. (Cynthia Greenlee).

As I took a course in “Women’s, Hip Hop, and Social Change” and in  “Emancipation to the Present”, I finally started to learn about what people of color had to face throughout the years. I learned that discrimination and racism in this country were more serious than what my textbooks depicted when I was younger. Everything was downplayed in McGraw Hill textbooks like when they would refer to the slave trade as the Atlantic Triangular Trade. 

In my Women’s, Hip Hop, and Social Change class,  we were talking about the whitewashed curriculum, and a few said that their teachers would tell them the truth. I specifically remember that one of my classmates said that their teacher in middle school actually introduced the class to poets of different backgrounds. Meaning that this student did not just read poems written by white men but poems from people of color as well. Reading these poems definitely gave her a different perspective which is what I wanted to have when I was younger. So, certain teachers do try to give their students a different perspective than just sticking to the whitewashed curriculum, which is definitely progress.

In conclusion, I am happy that now we have the technology and other resources to do research on our own. However, we should not have to be doing the research. We should be taught these things in school so that as a society we could become more educated; thus, breaking the chain of ignorance that has been passed on for generations in this country.