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”.