Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why Our Children Need to Know

It seems odd that someone like myself, a generation X twenty-something, would discuss a topic such as this. I assure you that this blog, in no way, attempts to profess my mastery in child-rearing; rather, it will address significance in youth education in both foresight and retrospect.

With the fast-moving 21st century cycle of news and information, people have infinite sources from which to draw. If you’ll recall, my previous blog on education discussed the lack of literary prowess in school curriculum. In this blog, I feel it necessary to discuss the lack of historical significance in the public school curriculum.

Yesterday, America inaugurated the first African-American president in front of an estimated 1.5 million people, I being one of them. Walking back with the masses toward the subways, I pondered several different theories. For the past eight years, we have been in a slump; our education has dwindled, our morale has taken a nose dive and our reputation around the world has been greatly tarnished. Yesterday marked both a turning point and a huge opportunity to help our newly elected president and representatives restore America to its rightful place. One place that should begin is in our schools.

America, with all its faults, has one of the greatest historical accounts in the history of civilization. Unfortunately, this has been watered down and proselytized before delivered to our public schools. Accounts from the different cultures that make up America have all been relegated to one-month-out-of-the-year mini-lessons instead of integrated into standard curriculum. Theories on why these have been left out, or rather have been included “affirmative-action style” can stem all the way back to the early 17th century.

Regardless of the reason for the oversight, the reality is crippling. My point being, if children were educated like other countries, with a rich history of their nation and others – including the good and the bad, we would have adults who are less complacent and more active in their government. Yes, America’s history is very short compared to several other countries, but our achievements and accomplishments saturate the small end of the timeline where we reside.

Perhaps omitting certain historical accounts served as a vehicle for those in power to hold steady the hand of marginalization over those it shadowed. I’ve heard so many people talking about how President Obama’s administration will do so much for the African-American youth by setting an example of the potential all of us possess. But what if the cultural legacies of all who inhabited the United States since its birth, were included in the rich history lessons of grade school? What if the lives of the Little Rock Nine were included in the everyday lessons of middle school children? What if the accomplishments of 19 year-old Mexican-American activist Carlos Montes were taught to high school students, or memoirs from Bobby Seale or Huey Newton were addressed on a history final? In fact, if the adolescent history of the country were juxtaposed with the stories of all its youthful pioneers, would the idea of an African American president be so far-fetched? If American children were immersed in the rich history of where we have been and how far we have come, would the glass ceilings be so thick?

It is said that Obama’s victory cemented him as a role model for African-American youth and there is no doubt about that. But what we should look at, while taking a step forward, is revitalizing education so that the students who graduate tomorrow will have a solid pride in their country and their culture. Frankly, the idea that there has to be a Black history and a Mexican history and an Asian history, is and should be found, ridiculous. These stories, milestones, defeats and achievements are an integral part of American history. They serve as the spine and foundation of our country; regardless of the transgressions they make up American DNA. Yes, the American story may be a sobering one, but its fabric binds us together.

In the days ahead, what we face is a long journey up a steep hill. But we have been here before. Ordinary people, often young in age, have faced these kinds of mountains and they have reached the summit over and over again. By bestowing upon our youth the history of American ingenuity, we give them both a hammer and a leg up toward the glass ceiling. By canvassing both America’s tribulations and achievements, we can sustain them with the idea that we are and have always been greater than our lesser ideals. By highlighting the impact of ordinary people to endeavor upon extraordinary things we instill in our youth a lingering responsibility to live up to their predecessors, to take interest in our government and to feel entitled to their rights, their liberty and their prosperity.