Authors – Nabeeha Asim & Najaha Nauf
The American Education system has made us believe we know everything we need to know – but this is far from the truth. We have learned more in the past week than we have in the past twelve years of the American public schooling system. It’s a shame that we weren’t taught about history in a more visceral and contextual manner. The fact that our education system has left loose ends about our relevant histories untied, and has created a supposedly seamless timeline that banks over movements of racial injustice and human rights is not necessarily astonishing but should very well be persecuted against. But who do we hold accountable when the whole world has suffered?
In certain states in the U.S., the school system and board of education within that state creates the curriculum according to their desires of what they want the students to be learning. More often than not these states, “lose sight of the connection between what students learn in history and the civic ideals and values” that must actually be taught. Thus, there is more of an emphasis on the history of America rather than civics courses that are at most 1 year long. This disrupts both the teachings of actual relevant humanitarian crises’ in full context as well as the current system being delved into rather than just skimming over what students need to know.
Our education system lacks the integral parts: students are meant to be learning something of value, enough to share their views and discuss them with their family and friends. Instead we’ve seen a near detrimental cycle of regurgitation of information, where lessons are only a pathway to examination questions and information is lost almost as soon as it is acquired. How many of us remember the specifics of what we learned when we were in high school, all the historical dates and lengthy names we spent our nights memorizing? A bit of a “polly want a cracker” situation, don’t you think? Like parakeets that mimic the common man.
Most of the things we have learned within our history classes categorize people by class, religion, race, sex, gender, and ethnicity but what we were never taught was that beyond all the titles and labels, we are all just humans.
We are tired. Tired of learning about the same scot-free white history. Tired of learning about the Boston Tea Party. Tired of learning about Lee and Grant. Tired of learning about things that don’t matter beyond the four walls of our classrooms. History class did not tell us about the civil rights movement: our black neighbors did. History class did not tell us about Nelson Mandela’s years in prison: the non-fiction books no one touched in the library did. History class did not tell us about the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.: an article on the origin of the Black Lives Matter movement did.
someone go ask the person running the american education system why i have to learn about pythagorean’s theorem and trigonometry for half my freshman year of hs, but not learn a single thing about black history in all my years of being in school (except slavery) ... i’ll wait
— a boogie ♡’s dj malik (@icaruscanyon) June 20, 2020
We’ve been thrust into the world with barely any knowledge, minds filled with the names of kings and queens who don’t matter in a land governed by men to whom we don’t matter.
But if history class has taught us anything, it’s that revolutions usually mean something unjust is happening. It means that there’s something being withheld from us, something that’s worth fighting for. It means we’re on the winning side if people in power are hiding in bunkers.
We are a generation fed on historically inaccurate facts and knowledge that has little to no worth outside classrooms and examination halls. As for the couple dozen things we did learn that’s proven useful, credits are due to our curiosity and not the messy ordeal the government’s made of our education. We have passionate teachers and passionate learners to give credit to for the bare minimum knowledge we do carry around. The credit goes to the Internet for answering “not-related-to-the-curriculum” questions we asked our teachers but never got answers in return. The credit goes to the books, articles and people who actually cared to delve into and write about major issues within our societies.
We come from culturally rich lands abundant with histories of their own, yet we are subjected to stories of white men who gained fame through theft of those very lands. Imagine sitting in a classroom where you are a minority, listening to an educator brood on about the great conquering of Asia by the British colonies. Imagine having to memorize paragraphs and witty one-liners about blood treaties: the very blood that happens to be running in your own veins as you recite each word. Chances are, you don’t have to imagine it. You’ve lived through it. We all have.
Why couldn’t they teach us about the truth behind every revolution? About the Jim Crow Laws and how they paved the way for radical racism? Why do our history textbooks glorify the white man?
“Until the lion learns to write, every story glorifies the hunter,” says an African proverb and it couldn’t be more relevant. Textbooks that glorify white men were written by white men and we’ve been taught these very stories to instill the idea that we are a people who must be “conquered” and “civilized” because of course, the white man brought civilization with him, right?
We are being told deliberate lies. Vital information is being taken away from us. They’ve stolen our lands, taken hold of our cultures, and now they’re taking knowledge away from us.
We were never taught that the pictures from the Civil Rights Movement were, in fact, not taken in black and white, but in color. How many of you know that the first colored photograph was taken in 1861?
By withholding information within their system, they ensure that we believe these movements occurred centuries ago when in fact, the Civil Rights Movement began in the 1940s. Our parents were alive during this movement yet our parents were just as unaware as we are. This is hoodwinking at its best: by concealing the time frames, they’ve managed to create a generation of people who have no sense of time. Had we not done our research, had the BLM movement not become a part of our own lives, would we have known? Chances are, we wouldn’t have.
We need to hold the boards of education and our teachers accountable (because, in case you didn’t know, we are allowed to do that). We are allowed to fight for the right to learn what we believe is not being taught. We are allowed to stand up for our education. Yet, we have never been able to in the “land of the free”.
We can change this. By signing petitions and calling our boards of education to make changes in our system, we can make them with the click of a button. Because if our education system allowed us to pay attention to the grave mistakes we have made – and keep making- as a society, we could make so much more progress than we have in the last few centuries. When a child takes home vital information that changes the views of their parents, that is when we know we have made a difference within our society.
Sayed Abad, Maidan Wardak – The first time I heard the word اوربند, ceasefire, was in 2018 when the Kabul government and the Taliban announced a historic three-day armistice for the Eid al-Adha holiday.
Over those three days and the seven day “reduction in violence” this last February, I realized words aren’t enough to describe what even a short break in fighting actually means. In a country known in equal parts for its beauty and its decades-long conflicts, it means travel.
Most importantly, for millions it means the opportunity to go home. Afghanistan is riddled with provinces and districts that for years, if not two decades, have become impossible to travel to with certitude. Every journey to these areas is a 50-50 gamble with landmines, bandits, checkpoints setup by the Taliban and other armed groups and finding yourself caught in battles between the government and those armed groups.
But during a ceasefire, much of those fears dissipate and are replaced with a sense of cautious optimism that you can head out to a place you haven’t been to in years, if ever, or that you can go to your watan, homeland.
This year, on the third day of the Eid ceasefire — unexpectedly announced by the Taliban and reciprocated by the government — I went to meet up my friend in Sayed Abad, a district in the Eastern province of Maidan Wardak I hadn’t been to in three years.
Last time we went, in the summer of 2017, we found ourselves heading towards a battle between the Afghan security forces and the Taliban. The further ahead we got, the more intense the sounds of gunfire and grenades became.
If we turned back, we — a group which included two Afghan-Americans and an Afghan-Austrian — would have come under suspicion. If we continued on, we’d be driving straight into a battle. We were there for work, investigating the impact of drone strikes on civilians, but for countless numbers of Afghans, this is what returning home or going to see family means, coming face-to-face yet again with a war that has divided families both physically and politically.
Luckily, the driver knew of a shrine on the side of the road where we could wait out some of the fighting. All this while my mother’s cousin was expecting me for lunch in Kabul.
This time, however, because of the ceasefire, those fears were gone. We laughed and joked about how our friend who was usually so talkative and energetic rendered silent by her carsickness.
When we arrived in Sayed Abad, we spent much of the day walking around the family’s land, taking pictures, playing cards and even having my friends hold my phone as I gave a live interview for an international media outlet about the very ceasefire we were enjoying.
At one point while we were walking around the compound, our friend Nadima, who has a large online following in Afghanistan and abroad, started to make short videos to show her thousands of followers what it was like to be able to come to such a place.
She was full of exuberance as she described the different fruits and nuts that grew around us, how important it was to be able to hear the birds chirping and to taste what that’s actually fresh and not “plasticy” from a bottle. She told her followers how lucky we are to come from such a beautiful land, all with a look of utter joy on her face.
When she finished, I reminded her that all of this is only possible because of a ceasefire and that until there is a real end to the fighting, millions of people in the country will never be able to see a place like this and that Maidan Wardak will continue to be known only as a dangerous place.
But by the time dinner had been cleared it became certain that the online calls to the Taliban and the government to #ExtendTheCeasefire had not been heeded. That was when the reality, and the fear that comes along with it, set in.
Suddenly, the laughter gave way to serious, hours-long discussions of how we would make the two-hour journey back to Kabul in the morning.
The questions kept coming.
Would the ceasefire be broken immediately after midnight, or might the two sides wait a few hours before resuming their operations and attacks?
Was it better to leave in the dark when the roads were completely empty but we would also be blind to any possible checkpoints, or should we wait until the sun came up and we would potentially be easier to spot by suspicious snipers?
Where would we find an additional reliable car (drivers have been known to tip off Taliban of suspicious passengers) now that we had extra people with us? How could we ensure the safety of the two women with us? Should we go together back-to-back so that we face any possible dangers together or should we space out our journeys so one group scope the situation for the others? If we space out the timing, how long should we wait? If we wait too long is fighting more likely to start back up by the time the second group heads out?
For hours, we debated different answers to each of the questions over and over again.
While the others discussed, debated and analyzed countless plans, I began to fear what the night brings in the villages of Afghanistan – the airstrikes and night raids that have become increasingly common.
After all, I’d sat with families in this very district as they described the aerial strikes that destroyed their homes and killed their loved ones. In Khogyani district in Nangarhar province, I heard stories of raids into homes filled with women and children, the laundry still hanging.
The truth was once the ceasefire broke, danger was all around us.
It could strike at any minute. It could come from ground or the air.
When morning came, we had no choice but to surrender to the plan we had agreed on. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
We did all make it back to Kabul safe and sound, but that journey still serves as one small example of what a difference a few hours and two short words can make in Afghanistan.
It shows what day and night mean when there is no long-lasting peace