Whose History Is This?

History class: where you are taught that the Founding Fathers were godlike figures who created America. Although this may sound completely factual at first, there is much more than meets the eye; things we wouldn’t learn in any history class. Even though the United States’ history curriculum covers a wide range of time periods, from the Renaissance to modern day, they all share a similar characteristic: we learn the achievements of white people, and the downfalls of everyone else. Anything related to the discrimination and racism faced by minorities is swept under the rug and never thoroughly discussed. One would think that class about the history of the world as we know it would cover all areas of the globe, not just the United States and Europe. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be learning about western history, but we are not truly learning our history if it isn’t inclusive of everyone. As an Asian-American, it hurts to know that I will never learn about my ancestor’s history in school. Why should I have to research this on my own when I should be able to get a basic understanding of it in the classroom? Why should I have to do my own research to figure out my history, while others get it taught to them on the daily? Not only does our current curriculum leave out huge chunks of history, but it also misconstrues it. 

Why do our textbooks never mention the fact that Thomas Jefferson had over 600 slaves throughout his life? We are taught that Jefferson was a great man who aided in expanding America, but are never told about his history of slavery. Although he did speak out against slavery throughout his life, calling it a “moral depravity” and a “hideous blot,” it doesn’t change the fact that he continuously enslaved African-Americans against their will. A man so highly educated as himself should have known the moral wrongness of slavery. Because our curriculum aims to etch the notion of the Founder Founders as saints who could do no wrong into our heads and our history, they leave out large portions of information. What the makers of these curriculums do not understand is that we can learn about historical figure’s accomplishments and their frailties. History is never one-sided. There are always two sides to each historical figure, the good, and the bad. Should we appreciate the work that Thomas Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers put forward into making the United States what it is? Yes, but we should also recognize that they were far from perfect: they made horrible and evil decisions that will forever taint their name. We can learn from the past and help make changes to our present and our future.

While having a eurocentric history curriculum can lead to the misconception of information, it also leads to the erasure of many important historical events. Why have these events been left out? Because they occurred in places that weren’t the United States or Europe. Curriculum makers seem to have this idea that anything that isn’t European history is not significant, when in reality, some of the most influential events in mankind have occurred in eastern countries. In fact, a list of some of the most important events in history that didn’t occur in the United States or Europe includes: 

TIMELINE

Key Moments of World History that are Not Eurocentric 

  • 3500 BC: The wheel and sail are invented in Mesopotamia and Egypt. 

  • 3200 BC: Writing is invented in Mesopotamia.

  • 280 AD: China is unified under the Western Chin dynasty, which sets up the political shape for modern China.

  • 570 AD: Prophet Muhammad, the founder and leader of Islam, is born in Mecca

  • 1453: Constantiople falls under the Ottoman Turks, subsequently leading to five centuries of Turkish rule in areas like North Africa and the Middle East.

  • 1519: Cortes begins his expeditions in South America, leading to further economic and political discovery.

  • 1600: The British East India Company is founded in India.

  • 1911-1912: The Chinese Revolution of the Qing Dynasty starts which leads into the formation of the Republic of China.

  • 1946: Civil War in China occurs between the Communist Party of China and the Republic of China.

  • 1949: Indonesia gains its independence.

  • 1953: Mount Everest is conquered for the first time by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.

  • 1971: Indo-Pak war is started over conflicts about Jammu and Kashmir.

  • 1975: The president of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, is assassinated by Bangladesh Army officers.

  • 1990: Namibia becomes a free nation.

  • 1994: Apartheid is ended in South Africa, leading to a new democratic government under President Nelson Mandela.

Now, perhaps one might have learned about some of these events, but it is very unlikely that one was taught about all of them. Although we are not taught everything in history class, it’s an unfortunate truth that most of these “significant moments in history” are things that we have to research and find out for ourselves. The only time we are taught about minority struggles and other countries is when it is used to make western societies look more ideal. We are taught about slavery, but only when we pair it with the fact that a white man (Abraham Lincoln) “freed” them all, when this statement is far from the full truth. The Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to border states like Missouri, Kentucky, Delaware, and Maryland, who all had slaves. We are never taught this. We learn in history classes that Abraham Lincoln saved all the slaves and was a hero, an idea that coincides with many people’s white savior complexes.

DISPLAYED AT THE PANORAMA 1453 HISTORY MUSEUM IS ALLEGEDLY THE WORLD’S LARGEST PANORAMIC PAINTING WHICH DEPICTS THE CONQUEST OF ISTANBUL ON A 3,000 SQUARE METER AREA WITH ITS 3D OBJECTS PLATFORM.

This isn’t to discredit all the accomplishments he had, but curriculum makers use this ideology of glorifying the white men of history to make western societies seem better. Another example of this is that we talk about Japan only to discuss their involvement in World War II. Why do we never mention that we put Japanese Americans in internment camps, where their property was taken, they had no privacy, and were confined in barbed wire, never knowing when they would be home? We only tell of the struggles of other ethnic groups when it benefits us. We should be sharing all stories from all ethnic backgrounds. Just because we live in the United States with a white majority does not mean that the information we learn has to strictly come from the United States and Europe. Depriving children and teens of these important aspects of history can lead to bias later in their life. Being taught all their lives that western countries were the only ones with success can eventually be implemented in the way that they talk to and interact with non-white individuals. We need to correct this problem now before it becomes more prevalent.

Our curriculum needs to include all sides of history. Although we cannot learn everything, we can certainly learn about the people of non-western civilizations and their achievements. We can learn their stories of determination, strength, and resilience to what history threw at them. And of course we still learn about the American Revolution and the Enlightenment, but we need to include more than just those perspectives and aspects of the world. Our history is not eurocentric, so why should our history classes be? When our history classes leave out and twist information to benefit western culture, it takes away from the genuine nature of it. We need to make sure our classes are inclusive and diverse in their content. History class should not just be one group’s history, it should be a mixture of everyone’s history, because that’s what history truly is in the grand scheme of it all. It is the timeline of us from a global perspective, not a eurocentric one. We must eliminate this obvious bias from our textbooks to make sure everyone can learn a part of their history in the classroom. We all deserve the right to know our story.


SOURCES:

https://tcf.org/content/commentary/diversity-schools-must-include-curriculum/?agreed=1


Evie Fitzpatrick

Writer, editor,

Evie Fitzpatrick is a 15-year-old sophomore at Davidson Early College High School. She is extremely passionate about politics and activism, and loves to share that with those around her. Evie also enjoys blogging, playing the violin, and volunteering at her local science museum. In the future, she hopes to become a biological anthropologist!

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