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What are we teaching in American schools? Certainly not the truth

Political leaders are worried about what’s being taught in schools, but the more threatening present danger is what’s not being taught in schools.

REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The integrity of American history is at risk.

America’s K-12 education system is shaded by partisan politics and polarization that infringes on the authenticity of education, specifically history education. Misinformation and flawed teachings about the origins of America today fill our classroom, indoctrinating younger generations with myths and stereotypes rather than the truth. History is constantly evolving, and structures of the education system surrounding history are not proportional to this evolution.

In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis rejected a new College Board course in AP African American studies, claiming it was “indoctrinating.” Seven states do not mention slavery in their state standards, and eight states do not mention the civil rights movement. In addition, there are no national social studies standards to mandate what topics or historical figures students must learn about, creating gaps in state standards for social studies. Essentially, these historical events are much “darker” and more serious in content. They reveal America’s dark history of institutionalized racism, white supremacy, discrimination, wars, and violence. By removing the painful parts of history, the authenticity of history education in K-12 is not upheld; instead, students are presented with a version of history confirming myths and stereotypes. Mackenzie McIlmail, an AP United States History teacher at The Blake School, “wants to expose my students to more diverse perspectives. Students need more complexity in their social studies,” she said in an interview. By creating mandates and incentives to restrict social studies subjects, America’s political leaders are limiting the development of critical thinking skills in American students. These students miss out on important historical movements that secured the foundations of our society today, as these bills limit their exposure to a singular perspective of history rather than multiple.

Political leaders are worried about what’s being taught in schools, but the more threatening present danger is what’s not being taught in schools. A concrete standard for social studies must be created, like math and sciences. These standards should include a universal history infusing multiple perspectives to give American students one authentic and raw version of American history. Black authors and the voices of marginalized groups should be highlighted in the classroom to offer fresh and diverse perspectives of history to deepen the complexity of students’ educations and nurture their critical thinking skills. We must maintain the authenticity of American history that has paved the way for our nation today. Students can handle the discomfort and are only getting more robust with the exposure. History bridges the gap between the past, present, and future, and without knowing the wrongdoings of the past, it will inevitably be repeated in the future. As McIlmail expressed in an interview, “If history is not uncomfortable, then it’s not history.”

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Avory Lee is a student in the class of 2024 at The Blake School.