Why teaching “happy history” should not be encouraged

Recently, Colorado has been in the spotlight on account of high school students organizing mass walkouts.

Commentary written by Casey Duff

 

Recently, Colorado has been in the spotlight on account of high school students organizing mass walkouts.

The Jefferson County Colorado school board suggested to change the United States History curriculum to encourage patriotism as well as support the positive aspects of American culture.

Teachers would teach patriotic ideals, while excluding lessons that could possibly promote civil disobedience.

Students and teachers in the Jefferson County district acknowledged the change in curriculum as censorship and responded to the school boards legislation by staging mass walkouts and protests.

Columnist for the Miami Herald Leonard Pitts Jr. addressed the curriculum change as pushing “happy history”, and remarked that it would not help students, but rather leave students “positive, patriotic – and ignorant”.

Colorado is not the only area in which the idea of “happy history” has been acknowledged.

In late September, there was an issue in Hanover Country regarding history teachers.

Hanover County history teachers showed a documentary to their students called “Thomas L. Friedman Reporting: Searching for the Roots of 9/11”.

The documentary showed Muslim students expressing their views about why America was attacked in 2001.

Hanover County officials showed upset over the video, iterating their disapproval of “anti-American sentiment” being shown to students.

The teachers, as well as the Superintendent of Hanover County Schools, argued that the video presented students with opposing viewpoints and perspective.

The issue of the video being shown was discussed by the Hanover board of Supervisors and was recently concluded that the film did not violate any school policy because the teachers presented it with their own perspectives.

While the issue in Colorado was on a much larger scale of educational censorship, the controversy in Hanover is significant because it places the dispute directly in front of our own County and school.

American history is one of the most important classes in high school because it is the first time that the viewpoints and ideals of other countries are placed against our own.

As a former APUSH (AP United States History) student, I see the attempt to censor the history curriculum in Colorado and Hanover as a regressive act.

America is a country that has made many mistakes socially, economically, and politically. Those mistakes have led to renowned movements and brought about famous leaders.

Many of those movements that shaped today’s America were based off civil disobedience and protest.

If a “happy history” curriculum were to take effect, students would not be learning about major events such as the Civil Rights Movement.

“Happy history” would teach students to be arrogant and leave them with little perspective.

It would create the false idea that America is above other countries and leads an existence without any social or political issues.

Censoring American history is schools is denying students the knowledge of what our country is built upon. Leonard Pitts summed up censoring history as an “act of cowardice”.

Censoring education is nearly the same as censoring free speech. It is uncannily similar: the government restricting a newspaper from telling a story is the same as the government restricting students from hearing the full extent of our history.

I like to think that if a “happy history” curriculum change were to be promoted in Henrico that high school students and teachers would realize the effect it would have, and look to Jefferson County schools as an example and step up against it.

American history is a fundamental course, and it is necessary that students are able to learn the entirety of the information.

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