Opinion: Why public schools need updated history books

Every history textbook will contain some bias, however, incorporating more viewpoints and perspectives of different groups of people would be beneficial in history classes.

Nations want younger generations to think highly of their country. Many times history textbooks demonstrate one-sidedness or blanketed information to make the country sound better rather than what actually happened. Thus, textbooks become overly patriotic and less factual.

Many students are taught history as a uniform narrative. In other words, this is what happened and how your textbook explains the historical situation is how you should think of it. Though, history is far from agreeable, every person does not remember events the same and will includes bias or morals in their judgement of an event. One group’s similar perceptions of an event does not imply that their thoughts and ideas are factual.

Do you remember learning as much about the Indian Wars of the 1800s as you did World War II or the Revolutionary War? I sure do not. What little was discussed in my school definitely left out how millions of innocent people were slaughtered on their home soil for centuries.

Beginning in 1492 when Columbus made his appearance in the Caribbean, Native Americans and their land were targeted. As more and more colonizers appeared, Native Americans reacted with cooperation then resistance.

The American government sanctioned over 1,500 attacks and wars on Native American people. To this day, America holds the number one spot how many attacks they authorized on its indigenous people. There were an estimated 15 million Native Americans living in Northern American continent in 1492. At the end of the Indian Wars in the early 1900s, there were about 230,000 indigenous people in American.

Various treaties and promises were made to Native Americans for years and years. Many of these treaties justified the stealing of Native American land for westward expansion by sending tribes elsewhere. At one point in history, indigenous people were forced to chose to assimilate into white culture or live on a tiny reservation that received little to no government care.

Since it’s been sugarcoated in many textbooks, I will state that the treatment of Native Americans in the 1500s-1900s was genocide.

In regards to the Revolutionary War, many textbooks mention the existence of African-American soldiers, however, most focus on those who fought for the colonials. In fact, there were African-Americans who fought for the British. I did not know this until I took a class here at Washburn. There are many historical events and perspectives that I was not exposed to until I learned them at a higher education institution.

The achievements of people of color and women have been glossed over in many textbooks. The harsh, cruel, malevolent and violent treatment of people of color is often repressed in social studies classrooms. To avoid repetition of history, students need to learn what really happened. Based on America’s embarrassing history of discrimination and mistreatment against those not of European descent, you would think public school systems would put more effort into teaching students more about these infringements of basic human rights. Tolerance and acceptance of others should be taught alongside these topics. Many students are ignorant to what people of color and women experienced in early American history. Thus, when faced with modern issues of racial, sexist and ethnic discrimination, there is still an overwhelming amount of insensitivity that stems from a lack of understanding and empathy. How can society expect more acceptance from young people who aren’t even being exposed to the experiences and situations marginalized people during their time in elementary and secondary school? These conversations of diversity and inclusion need to happen at every single grade level.

There have been pushes for reformation of how social studies are taught in schools. Many educators are in favor of ridding the current system of the traditional models. Rather than focusing on memorization and regurgitation of information from one textbooks, teachers would incorporate a variety of readings and materials, have students to analyze them and allow students to write about their thoughts on the historical event or readings. Not only will students retain more of what’s being taught, but this method also encourages students to take a stance on the topic and think for themselves.