American History Essay Example: Proudly Repressed
Why does American history tend to be overlooked by students in the United States? Although it is a subject focused on a country that is very well known for its citizens' pride, it is one of the classes that U.S students often dread. Of the handful of students that look forward to this class, about half of them are only there to get a nap in. Students do not seem to understand the importance of learning and discussing what occurred in the past that has enabled us to live in the world we have today. James W. Loewen uses his novel Lies My Teacher Told Me to spread awareness of the mistreated subject. Students are bored because they are being lectured and forced to read from textbooks that have an ungodly amount of pages. Loewen explains that "Students will start finding history interesting when their teachers and textbooks stop lying to them" (Lowen 358). Students in the United States need to be taught American history in order to open up a discussion about America's flaws and failures, take them into account, and learn to understand where we need to improve and prevent past mistakes from entering the present. For this to happen, students must learn without the overcasting shadow of patriotism and lack of perspective that is preventing them from completely understanding our country's backstory.
American history classes leave students believing that the United States has never made a mistake. The textbooks focus on the idea that no other country is better than the United States. The American Legion even stated that an ideal textbook would "inspire the children with patriotism" (302). To achieve this ideal textbook status, textbooks censor historical events as they could potentially be offensive to society. Mainly to the caucasian race considering they are the majority of the American society and hold many high positions of power. Loewen mentions that "Alabama law used to require that schools avoid 'textbooks containing anything partisan, prejudicial or inimical to the interests of the [white] people of the state' or that would' cast a reflection on their past history'" (312).
Loyal supporters of the United States believe that history must be censored to protect the young minds of students from unpleasantries. By doing this, they are, hypocritically, overlooking and offending the groups of Americans that the country was taken from initially. Specifically, Native Americans. Only recently have Native Americans been depicted in textbooks as humans who deserve the right to their lives. "They were people who participated in struggles to preserve their identities and their land" (94). This close-minded censoring is preventing students in America from having a complete understanding of our country's history. With this censoring, students are unable to learn from and discuss the mistakes made by past Americans.
Children are taught from a young age to learn from their mistakes and to accept their flaws — mistakes aid in creating a well-rounded person. History textbooks and teachers seem to forget this vital life lesson. Why ignore the events in which the United States failed or slipped up when they were a part of creating the country we live in today? To fully grasp how America came to be, students need to learn how the country attempted to or successfully came back from its losses and errors. By implementing this, students will be able to have discussions and debates. Which is how history should portray itself. History must be full of discussion, not lectures. Memorizing dates and names will never be as crucial as developing opinions and ideas. Discussions and debates will lead to the students understanding of how to use the information they have learned in their everyday lives.
An umbrella of patriotism and lack of perspective is very apparent throughout American history textbooks. In American classes, history is taught without perspective and focuses on the cold hard facts. Teachers teach blindly from the textbooks without taking a moment to think about the emotions of the people who lived through the events. Loewen informs his readers that "emotion is the glue that causes history to stick" (342). Because there is no emotion or diversity in perspective within the textbooks, it leaves only a few people who want to read them willingly. Women tend to have less interest in learning history because they are not represented in the way that men are. Women's "...concerns and perceptions still go underrepresented in history classes" even though women's rights have become an epidemic throughout the United States. Along with women, minorities are continuously forgotten in history textbooks. They are not allowed to share their perspectives as American textbooks are white-dominated and eurocentric. Textbooks should have an "...accurate multicultural history that spreads the discomfort around, rather than distorting history to help only affluent white children feel comfortable about their past" (345).
The United States has been said to be the great melting pot of the world. However, when reading any textbook or historical document, it seems as if only one race, the caucasian race, controls this country. Slavery, women's rights, racism, and other actions that the country is ashamed of once taking part in are not what parents and patriotic Americans want their children to be taught. They want their kids to be proud of the country they live in. Although, If this mindset continues, it gives off the appearance that America is blaming the victims of these horrible events for the country's imperfect past. The patriotic tone throughout American history textbooks keeps "...students in the dark about the nature of history" (8). History should not be hidden or pushed to the side. Every moment and action was essential to the creation of the present. Students must understand the importance of learning about how their country came to be, including every failure and mistake.
Students often dismiss history class because the people of present America are not adequately represented, and their textbooks are predictable and boring. Constantly having facts spat at them by a teacher and reading from textbooks that seem like they will never end has caused a drought in students excitement to learn about history. The history that is taught in high school classrooms is often riddled with white lies to maintain America's “perfect image.” Once schools and teachers have learned that students need to be questioning history, not lectured about it, this forgotten subject will become the most empowering and truthful class in the building. Not only will students be correctly learning about their ancestors, but they will be learning how to use logical reasoning and thinking in the real world. History classrooms need to be filled with discussion and debate about America's failures and mistakes so students can use the information strategically to create a brighter future for all Americans.