In high school, U.S. history was my favorite subject. It was something I was good at and actually took an interest in. Contrasting with my overall 2.3 GPA, which was only held up by creative writing and journalism class (and sank due to subjects like chemistry and algebra), any social studies class was something I took an active interest in.
But I didn’t learn it.
Sure, my government class taught me what the three branches of government were (although I liked Steven Hyde’s answer more — military, corporate, and Hollywood). I even learned about ancient Rome, Nazi Germany and World War II, along with how Britain colonized nearly everything they saw. But on the subject of U.S. history, so much was left out. And if it was taught, it wasn’t taught correctly.
School never shows us how vindictive George Washington was or how he tricked immigrants, drunks, and illiterate people into joining the military. We’re taught that Washington had wooden teeth when they were just made up of teeth from other humans and hippos. We’re taught that Paul Revere was an important figure during the war — which he isn’t — and we’re even taught that he coined the phrase “the British are coming” which isn’t true at all, especially since many colonial Americans still considered themselves British at the time.
Even Christopher Columbus, a man we’re taught ‘discovered’ America, did not actually discover the continent. Beyond that, however, he never even landed here. His ships never landed in North America, but rather, plenty of Caribbean islands.
If you’re suprised by all of this, don’t be. It gets even worse with racial issues.
There’s no federal requirement for states to discuss any specific historical events or figures. And yes, you guessed it, states set these mandates.
Seven states do not directly mention slavery in their curriculums; only two mention white supremacy; sixteen states list “states’ rights” as the cause for the Civil War.
None of this is surprising either. A woman’s group that formed in 1894 called the United Daughters of the Confederacy began a campaign to rewrite Civil War history. Even without the right to vote, they were extremely influential, lobbying local governments to erect confederate monuments and even pressuring school boards to ban books that they deemed “unjust to the South.”
We aren’t teaching children U.S. history and it’s a subject that is fundamental to their learning. Racism is learned from a young age and once it’s learned, it’s pretty hard to un-learn it. We can avoid our painful past all we want, but until we finally address all of the f*cked up stuff grandma and grandpa did, the United States of America cannot progress.