If the United States is a Melting Pot

whitewashing of education

February 1st is the start of Black History Month, meaning students will learn about maybe four or five different aspects of Black excellence in schools and, when the month comes to an end, the curriculum will soon shift back to a white-washed narrative of American society. Instead of learning about the many accomplishments of Americans of all different races and cultures we will continue to learn about the American history our textbooks teach us, which has not seen a real change in years. If the United States promotes itself to be a multicultural union, our educational system says otherwise.

Did you know that Rosa Parks was not the first African American woman to be forced off a public bus for sitting in the Whites only section? If you answered no to that question you certainly would not be the only one seeing as textbooks only mention one aspect of the Montgomery bus boycotts in schools. If one would like to learn more about the different aspects of the civil rights movement one must read a book independently of class or possibly catch a documentary on the History Channel. Not only are students not exposed to an in-depth analysis of African American culture in our schools, there is an even larger gap present where we should be learning about Hispanic culture, Asian culture, and especially Native American culture. It is shocking, but largely unsurprising, that we only learn about Native American history in chapters of war and the infamous Trail of Tears.

For the United States to stress the melting pot characteristic of our country it is disappointing to acknowledge the sheer lack of multicultural education present in our schools. Literacy especially fails to incorporate the writings of authors from all over the world. I was fortunate enough to take a world literature course in college to read books from Nigerian writers, Indian writers, and even writers from New Zealand, but throughout my years in primary and secondary school I was only treated to the international works of European authors, and by European I mean those from the United Kingdom. As I mentioned in my last blog post, the choices of mandatory readings I had growing up in primary and secondary schools were mostly limited to White authors. Even the critically acclaimed “To Kill a Mockingbird”, a book that illustrated the racial tension of the south in the 1930s, was written by a White woman. Rarely were their required readings that were written by authors of color.

With the recent shift in United States culture moving to one of multiculturalism and social justice, it is imperative that we must first start in the classrooms, especially tackling the curriculum. If students are to benefit from learning their history, they must learn all aspects of it, the good and the bad. Policy-makers and curriculum builders must first acknowledge that the current knowledge taught in our schools lacks the culture and depth necessary to encourage students of all ethnicities to buy into the history being presented in the state regulated textbooks. Until we are able to study the accomplishments of Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and other ethnicities outside of their designated “months”, I am wary of calling our country a “melting pot”.

Marrisa

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About marrisarose

Marrisa is a student at the University of North Carolina who enjoys Sweet Frog frozen yogurt and trying to keep up with one million emails a day.
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6 Responses to If the United States is a Melting Pot

  1. natercole says:

    My biggest problem with your argument is that you assume the History Channel shows documentaries. The History Channel only shows Pawn Stars and American Pickers. Or like Alien shows or something.

    But seriously, I agree with what you’re saying here in theory. If we are going to call ourselves a melting pot, we need to blend in the accomplishments of ALL those who contributed to this nation, whether through invention, science, literature, military achievement, or education. I mean, we’re in school for 12 years, you’d think we would be able to learn the historical achievements

    However, in practice, I think there is a place for Black/Asian American/etc History Month in highlighting the accomplishments of a particular ethnic group to the United States, particularly the lesser known achievements that you may not have heard or read about in your english or history classes (that is, the minor achievements in comparison to large major ones). How it is now, however, is not that way. We just sweep the rest of the accomplishments under the rug 11 other months of the year, and that’s not how it should be.

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    • marrisarose says:

      Hey Nathan! Thanks for the commenting. You scared me a little with the first paragraph so I had to read it twice but it was fun and I appreciated it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. leighahall says:

    There’s a decent amount written on the problems with the term melting pot. This one is pretty straight-forward: http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/213593491.html

    Getting back to what we read and who it reflects, in English classes – once you get from about 8th-grade on – books are often curriculum. So what you are trying to change isn’t just WHAT students read but the actual curriculum itself. To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic 9th-grade text. Should we get rid of it? Replace it with something else? Keep it but add other works to it? All of these are possibilities. I think, as a profession, we get to stuck on hashing it out OR teachers are not allowed to make the decisions about what gets read.

    What does/does not get read in schools matters – a lot. We need to find a way to revisit these issues and make changes. Education is, in my opinion, becoming way to standardized.

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  3. Pingback: The Politics of Reading

  4. devin17h says:

    Marissa, you bring up some amazing points! Despite having gone to public schools in North Carolina my entire life, and taken several courses within them about US and North Carolina history, I only just recently learned about North Carolina’s bi-racial fusion coalition that was undone by a white supremacy campaign launched by white democrats in the state in a 300 level history course at UNC. The fall of the fusion coalition in the late 1890s (around the same time that public schools were being established) was surrounded by acts of terror, racist propaganda and a coup d’etat of the city government in Wilmington. This was a huge event and turning point in North Carolina history, but it has not been emphasized in the way that North Carolina State History is taught in public schools. How we view our history and what events we emphasize have huge political and social impacts. It is imperative that we begin to discuss how the “important” events are decided upon and how our historical narrative is shaped, and I am glad that you brought up this topic.

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    • marrisarose says:

      Hi Devin! That’s even something I didn’t even know about. I’ll have to look up more about that coalition. Thanks for the comment (:

      Like

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