Will We Ever Achieve a Proper Way in Teaching American History?
Not knowing history is like being a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. History needs to be taught, and if we’re not taught about history we might repeat its failures, or fail to repeat its successes. However, communicating the truths of history is a task that requires selective honesty, and such selections are not always agreed on.
This creates conflicts between schools nationwide within the U.S., conflicts that are difficult to cope with. This troubles the country’s approach to educating its students on the history behind their own country. Being a very dynamic country, left and right wing views see American history through two very different lenses. The New York Times provides an article written by Cecilia Capuzzi Simon titled “Taking the Politics Out of American History (and out of A.P.)”, explaining a current conflict on educating American history. Over 470,000 students will soon be sitting down to take the Advance Placement Test in U.S. history, yet U.S. history may differ between all of them. This is because, teachers complain that, the given framework over preparing for the test was “thin and lacked direction, especially on what to focus on for the exam” (Simon). With that, the framework grew from nine pages of course guidelines to 115 pages, and incorporated a contemporary approach to teaching by introducing “historical thinking skills”. These “historical thinking skills” encourage students to examine historical events and figures, and then compare them to the influences on today’s events and figures (Simon). However, at our culturally divided time, this framework quickly became an issue.
“Where was John Winthrop’s ‘City Upon a Hill’ speech? Why give more prominence to Chief Little Turtle than to Ben Franklin?” are few of the many complaints over biased priorities from a conservative’s views (Simon). Meanwhile, liberals “scratch their heads” as to why we are calling Ronald Reagan “bellicose” in his dealings with the Soviet Union, or why we are describing Manifest Destiny as a belief in “white racial superiority” (Simon). With that anger strikes, the Jefferson County students and teachers even made national headlines by walking out of their classes to protest censored courses (Simon). College Board officials had then reached out to critics, held meeting, attended hearings and listened in order to find a fair ground in American history’s curriculum. A framework that “achieved a middle ground” was then created (Simon). Still not everyone is satisfied, and another problem has came about over the lack of freedom teachers now have within their own classro0ms.
High school teachers, today, now have to learn to accept the evolving of today’s teaching due to the many viewpoints held by many kids. Originally, high school teachers would not need to worry about such strict curriculums, but today’s students are eager to take on college-level courses (high school A.P. classes) due to an increase in sophistication and the desire for college creadits. In result, liberals and conservatives have agreed to disagree on some points within the current framework, but this conflict has also exposed a very debatable discussion.
Can history ever be taught with the exact same concepts nationwide? If so, it is easier said than done. Teachers and professors are there to educate students for the better, but how can one be accepting of a teaching that he or she doesn’t find right? Ideologies are the best and the worst for us- like calories. We need them to get through our day, but too much of them will negatively effect us. Our ideals differ and, in effect, we don’t all agree on what is right or wrong. History, more or less, is what we have found right or wrong and that is what our country teaches its students. With that, history is almost an ideal, so how are we supposed to tell someone that their view is right or wrong? That is like telling someone it is wrong to like the color blue.
Our ideals are the root of our values, and our values, potentially, make up our culture- being a leading characteristic within our country, to Gramsci’s beliefs. With that, these ideologies not only affect our history, but our values and, therefore, culture. Teachers not only educate us, but, in a way, mold us into who we become. This conflict in today’s teachings may be inevitable, so how are we to approach it? How is any country supposed to approach their history? Fortunately, an answer may never have a seat within that meeting but there is always room for improvement.