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How Should History Be Taught?

Jack McCurry, Grade 10, Staff Writer


What is history? Is its purpose merely to torture students through endless lectures about boring people that died long ago? Of course not! Even if you’re not a history geek, it is still relevant to understand the actions of past figures in order to make better decisions that will improve modern society. Unfortunately, our deep political divisions have led politicians to place limits on historical facts that contradict what their political platform stands for.

In May 2022, Florida, a Republican controlled state containing nearly 3 million students, banned teachers from talking about the legacy of Slavery and Jim Crow and how it continues to impact America. And, as of now, 22 states with tens of millions of students have introduced bills that ban or place limits on what can be taught about racism, with 5 of those states signing those bills into law as of July 2022.

Asked on what she thought about the intentional banning of certain historical facts from schools, Talia Katz(‘25) said, “You will repeat history, and risk worsening misunderstanding in society. If people can’t understand what happened, they can’t understand what is currently happening. Information is power.”

It is especially important for high schoolers to have knowledge of the true facts of American History as Nana Pinamin-Dotwa(‘25) explains: “High schoolers are old enough to drive, to marry, to enlist in the military, and even have their personal autonomy. Learning the true, unbiased facts can only help them realize any conjuncture they may have to our dark history.”

Acknowledging discrimination in the classroom, just as much as traditional forms of education in math or English, is not intended to make students feel uncomfortable, or to encourage our youth to hate America. Mateo Ordóñez(‘25) says, “to me, loving America means protecting the rights and freedoms of American citizens.” The best way to love our country and democracy is to improve its inclusivity, and the only way to do that is to learn the true history of our mistakes.

Knowing the true picture of American history will make it easier for the next generation to have sympathy for marginalized communities and right the wrongs of the past. As students at the High School of American Studies, we are in a lucky position where our history classes encourage us to have meaningful conversations about the full story of our country’s past. It is quite easy for our student population to overlook what is happening in other states in terms of historical censorship.

All the great progress our country has made over the last 60 years could be stalled by many millions of students coming out of schools with narrow minds. Our more senior HSAS students will be able to recall George Orwell's quote from 1984 that “who controls the past controls the future.” This truth has never been more relevant than today, as our nation's future trajectory depends on our definition of the meaning of history education.

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