Understanding of the past guided by politics, priorities, personalities of present

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By Christie Berman

When reading anything, the author’s perspective must be taken into account. In fact, a new class in Digital Literacy offered to Montgomery County 6th graders has text evaluation listed as one of its primary goals. Yet, how often are students prompted to question the very sources they rely on for their education?


That’s especially important considering that beginning this year, students in Texas are learning that slavery was a mere side issue leading to the Civil War. They are also not learning about the Ku Klux Klan or Jim Crow Laws. That’s akin to relegating the Holocaust to a sidebar in World War II history. As it is, I’ve found that students from many U.S. educational districts do not have as solid a grasp on the Holocaust and its atrocities as those hailing from more progressive and diverse districts such as Montgomery County.

In these cases and countless others, our collective understanding of the past is guided by the politics, priorities, and personalities of the present. Certainly our view of history may validly change with revelations that only come after years of research and discovery. Some might even argue that slavery was, in fact, of less importance to the country’s breakdown into Civil War than states’ rights were. But even for those who could buy into that argument, how can you possibly argue that it is in our students’ best interest to purposefully omit the existence of the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow Laws from their education?

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At a time when national educational standards have been a central debate, it is vital that we recognize the vast responsibility we wield in controlling how knowledge is passed on to our children, as well as the immense danger posed by misrepresentation of knowledge. There will always be different historical views, teacher opinions, and educational priorities. Therefore, perhaps the best education we can give our students begins with teaching them to question their sources, including the educational system they so blindingly trust.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Great article. I, too, am deeply concerned about what our students are being taught in history, philosophy and other classes today. What is stated as fact and what is omitted is no less than alarming to me. Our students need to question what is being presented as fact, research subjects on their own to decide what is correct in their own minds and decide for themselves what they believe is right and what has been distorted.

    Kudos to the author for bringing these points to the attention of others.

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