I have taught history in public schools for over 15 years, I’ve earned my Master’s in Education, and National Board certificate in Young Adult Social Studies. How does someone with my background not learn about Juneteenth until the last few years, or the Tulsa Race Massacre until the weeks following George Floyd’s murder?
It’s commonplace in my yearly teaching curriculums to cover Washington's wooden teeth, the New Deal, and the rise of Wall Street. But not once have these curriculums covered the racial redlining policies within the New Deal, the violent fall of Black Wall Street, or the disturbing fact that some of Washington’s false teeth were pulled from his own slaves.
That’s because so much of our country was built by white men, for white men. Too many of today’s institutions have not yet overcome generations of that social legacy. Our educational institutions are some of the larger culprits, namely the institutions that write and disperse our teaching curriculums and textbooks. I mean, if a teacher with a history degree was never taught about these American moments, that says a lot about the people writing our history books.
We need to hold curriculum developers accountable. They provide curriculums to school districts who then provide them to teachers like me. Teachers can be punished for teaching topics outside the curriculum, and even if they’re willing to risk that, they must find those resources on their own time. Those several hours of unpaid labor add up. It’s a losing system that doesn’t help students learn, and we need to do better.
If we really wish to not repeat history, then we need to begin teaching all of America’s history: the good, the bad and the ugly. Because Black Lives Matter.
-Jamie Smith, Candidate for Washington State House in the 25th LD
Learn more about Jamie at https://www.votejamiesmith.com