NEWS

The U.S. Education System Fails To Teach Black History

We are tired.

By

Nabeeha Asim

June 21, 2020

2:17 pm

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. 

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.

READ MORE: Stop Posting Selfies, Start Posting #BlackLivesMatter Resources