History teachers afraid to offend

ReAnne Utemark

In an effort to not offend anyone, there will be changes made to the curriculum. In music, professors will no longer be discussing slave spirituals and their role in the development of American music. In classes dealing with World War II, no mention will be made of Japanese internment camps or the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I hope I didn’t offend anyone.

The aforementioned changes aren’t actually going to happen, but they could.

As a history major and a critical thinker, the idea to cut out parts of history to make it more politically correct makes my skin crawl. An April 2 London Times article claimed that teachers were leaving out “controversial” subjects such as the Holocaust and the Crusades to avoid offending students of certain races or religions. It also said teachers were unwilling to challenge the slanted version of history that some students received at home. As an American who is used to a certain liberty with information, it does not make sense that teachers would leave vital information out of a lesson plan. Not to sound overly dramatic, but this precedent is a particularly dangerous one.

In an early university history class, the professor told me that history is a dialogue among historians. By cutting out parts of history that are admittedly uncomfortable, teachers are doing irreparable damage to that dialogue. Different eras had different social norms. It is important for students to understand these differences. These scared teachers are also doing damage to future generations because they will not be able to learn from the mistakes made during those dark points in human history. It is difficult to tell a room of students that six million innocent people were killed in a variety of gruesome ways. However, the impacts of not telling students could lead to a society going down the same road. If nothing else, history teaches us what is successful and what is not successful.

The idea of cutting the “hard” parts of history out is a slippery slope. Any number of things could be left out of history textbooks because they are deemed too unpleasant to teach. The Trail of Tears and the U.S. government’s destruction of Native American sovereignty could easily be left out of the Manifest Destiny chapter. Events and people will continue to be cut until we are teaching a bland, uneventful and nearly untrue version of history. Without a working knowledge of history and the impacts of the events and people, we will not be good citizens and we will suffer because of that. Granted, the information will be available through other means, but if students are not interested in history, they will not pursue that knowledge and it could conceivably be lost. Hitler was elected to power. Who is to say that will not happen again?