The Stories Not Told


Brooklyn Servin, Opinion's Editor

There are many ways in which the education system across the nation, most commonly in history textbooks and books shared in Language Arts classes fails to respect diversity. When opening up a basic history textbook that has been passed around schools throughout the United States for centuries, or even those made in this decade, we find that the only African American history or culture that is described on the pages is about Slavery, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and, occasionally, poet Maya Angelou. Even with the stories of these individuals, they get watered down to the perspectives the world wants to show. It may be surprising to some, but there are over 2000 years of Black history before slavery, before segregation. 

In addition, other parts of history, such as the American Revolution, do not include any information about the Black perspective. The history that we learn in school skips many important stories of those who advocated for equality but their names weren’t credited. An example would be Claudette Colvin. On March 2, 1955, Colvin at the age of 15 refused to give up her seat towards the front on a then-segregated bus. This was nine months before Rosa Parks, who is highly recognized. Colvin said the reason why the public chose Rosa Parks as the icon was because “Many thought an adult would be more reliable than a teenager.” Students should be informed about it so our education is more complete, accurate, and more inclusive to more perspectives.

     Diversity in the curriculum is not something that should be a choice. Children who are not exposed to a more complete telling of history and culture often lead to ignorance that is often passed down generations. If parents are raised receiving information based on a white European perspective, it is likely their children will be taught the same thing by them. To have it be separated from the required history curriculum and classes as an elective class fails to give all students the opportunity to learn every part of history in its complete form. 

     The lack of diversity in textbooks intertwines with the discussion of Critical Race Theory (CRT), a subject that has been up for debate for a long time. Critical Race Theory is the teaching and understanding of how race & racism in the United States has been embedded in our history as well as legal systems and policies. There are many parents, teachers, and politicians who have complained about the teaching of CRT. 

In one instance, A Des Moines Register article explained an instance where parents and some government officials were upset that the book “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas was being read in the classroom. They called the material “inappropriate and obscene.” due to the language used in the book. One Iowa senator even suggested that the teaching of books like this should be seen as a felony. To call this book inappropriate shows the way in which non-black individuals are ignorant to the fact that this book is a real representation of how black people are treated in the United States. Wanting to get rid of this book is wanting to erase a part of history that makes people uncomfortable based on the fact that they don’t want to realize that this is a reality. Layne Sheetz, a Language Arts teacher at Washington High School shared his thoughts on why he believes many white individuals become uncomfortable when these stories are being shared in the classroom. “If you don’t understand somebody and you don’t seek to understand somebody then you personify them as the villain.” Sheetz also stated that as a white individual he and many others have the “Privilege to disconnect from those stories” that show different perspectives of people of color, as they are able to find many books that center a white person as the main character but for POC it is significantly harder to find books that center them. Sheetz makes it his goal to center as many perspectives in the lessons he teaches in the classroom, offering various books, essays, short stories, and immigrant stories to share as many perspectives as he can. 

Debating whether or not stories that show the perspective of people of color in the United States is debating whether or not you want the truth of United States history to be told, or if you want to keep parts of history that doesn’t live up to the great “American Dream” hidden from this generation of students. It is so important for the younger generations to understand all aspects of history in order to help overcome and break down the obstacles that were left behind.