This past week has been a landmark point for the discussion of race issues in the United States. The murder of George Floyd sparked numerous protests around the country and a resurgence in the Black Lives Matter movement. More students than ever before have used social media as a way to post opinions and network with others, creating an open dialogue about the racism that plagues our country.
Why weren’t these discussions happening when we were at school months ago? Did it really take Floyd’s death to start talking about the oppression that minorities face in the United States?
In order to truly cure our country’s racism, we need to tackle the root of the problem. Children need to be exposed to the history and culture of other ethnicities in order to develop an appreciation for them. Unfortunately, America’s education system largely does not accomplish this, teaching children Eurocentric curriculum that has not adapted to the increasing diversity of the United States.
We pride ourselves on having a top-tier education system that prepares students to become responsible, open-minded thinkers. This goal is not reflected by what kids are learning in American schools today.
Taking a look at the AP curriculum, the College Board currently offers only three AP history classes, which almost one million students took in 2018 alone. AP European History and AP US History focus exclusively on the rise to power of European people. A third class, AP World History: Modern, is named to make people think that it covers cultures from all over the world.
However, a quick look at the curriculum will show that aside from a few smaller units, the course heavily focuses on Europe. In fact, all three classes place a special emphasis on colonization, and how European nations were able to take control of people from other continents. This is not the narrative we need to be teaching kids in the 21st century.
Authors of color are also largely missing from school literature. Books such as “To Kill a Mockingbird” spark discussions about racism, but the reality is that we aren’t hearing the perspectives of minorities through what we read.
How effective can these discussions be when the only perspectives to base them off of are from white people?
If we want to see racism end in the United States, our education system needs to step up to the challenge. Our classes need to incorporate the perspectives and cultures of people of color throughout grade levels, not just in a single unit from a “world history” class.
Schools should bring in speakers from all races to show that stereotypes can be broken and everyone can achieve excellence. Let’s stop the narrative of American and white exceptionalism. We’re not exceptional until what we teach our students is.