American history must be more inclusive
Each year when I taught high school English, I always incorporated Black writers into February’s “Black History Month,” followed by women writers for March’s “Women’s History Month.” In almost every classroom, at least one student would make this inquiry: “Why don’t we have white history month?”
An interesting discussion would always ensue, generally with the students coming to realize that every month is white history month — specifically, white male history month. Indeed, were this not the case, there would be absolutely no need for a Black History Month or a Women’s History Month; those essential names and their stories would be woven inextricably into the fabric of American history.
Yet they are not. Instead, what we have masquerading for American history is a compilation of white male names and their stories, to the exclusion of others. White supremacy and patriarchy flourish on these pages. Impressionable youngsters — students of color and girls of all colors — are brought up through a system that illustrates again and again that the American story is white and male. The harm of that is almost impossible to quantify.
This is where corrective action is long past due. We must have an American history story that is as diverse and inclusive as America itself. Nothing less is an accurate representation of who we have been, who we are, and who we strive to be.
How unfortunate, then, that discussion about the need for inclusion in American history has morphed into a twisted, inaccurate, and politicized discussion about Critical Race Theory (CRT). CRT isn’t taught in K-12 any more than quantum physics. It’s a college-level academic examination of factors that have historically disadvantaged different groups in our society — Blacks, poor whites, and others. Public school students aren’t up to the rigors of those discussions, nor should they be.
What they are able to grasp is a fair, inclusive, and thorough examination of the stories of America. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, nationalities, religions, you name it. Many are to our glory. Some are to our shame. Yet all demand to be recalled and examined. We need to know why we are proud. We need to know how we can improve. What other way forward can there possibly be?