Protection from the Past

Should educators be more critical and upfront of the history they teach?

If+textbooks+arent+revealing+the+bigger+picture%2C+then+what+is%3F

Ashley Dixon

If textbooks aren’t revealing the bigger picture, then what is?

Ashley Dixon, Business Manager

History classes have been a constant subject in our curriculum since grade school first began. One would expect more detailed accounts and in-depth instruction on several portions of history as we grow older and advance through the grades, but is this really what we’re receiving?

We’ve been taught topics such as slavery since our elementary days, but we were never told in detail about the cruel things that happened to slaves until high school. Even then, parts of the horrors are grazed over perhaps out of fear of tainting any innocence we may have had. 

If we never hear the victims’ perspective, then we’re missing out on the most important portion of the overall narrative. Those who write textbooks tend to pull from more abundant sources because of their convenience, and since educators follow along with these, they end up leaving out key pieces of information.

While it makes sense that young children would be shielded from instances of abuse or sexual assault, we are no longer in elementary or middle school; we are on the brink of adulthood. We no longer need to be protected from the harsh realities of the world’s past. We need to be taught every aspect of it, like AP Euro teacher Bryn Dubois tries to do in his own classroom.

“I always try to bring up lesser-known stories and perspectives– ones that are often forgotten and overlooked,” Dubois shared.

As times and views change, history needs to be reevaluated continuously. Most teachers try to remain neutral on certain issues, but this can lead to the desensitization of them. If they continue to do so, historical mistakes may repeat themselves because of lack of care and underexposure. It is important for us to learn history, and especially time periods where our morals were not the most ethical.

“History is the most important topic that any person can study since it is the best way to learn what motivates people,” U.S. History teacher Bruce Carlisle explained.

Some students feel as though they are not receiving the entirety of the story from what the textbook provides and what educators can present in such short amounts of time before AP and IB tests roll around.

“Both sides of the argument have to be presented. We need to get the perspectives of those who wanted something,” Zhao remarked. “We need to get the whole story of why they were there in the first place, and why they may have been so reluctant to concede.”

Testing deadlines only give teachers so much time to give forth information on historical events and people. Some, such as World History teacher Scott Schepens even feel pressured to cram in the material so that their students only have a broad understanding of history.

“I definitely wish I could go into more detail about certain subjects, but I can only fit so much detail into a ten month window,” Schepens stated.

We have the power to alter what we receive from hour-long lectures, or Schepens’ dreaded multi-page reading guides. We only have to ask to learn more so that we gain a larger understanding of the history we are being taught. History will remain stoic, but the way we teach it doesn’t have to.