Censoring history stains our future
Rote memorization of enormous amounts of events and dates makes it all too easy to forget history’s role in shaping not only the world we live in but how we think and act.
Instead of being seen as a defining aspect of who we are today, it is often seen as a series of specifics that lack broader meaning.
History’s value only seems to become evident when students catch errors in their textbooks.
In November 2014, the Texas Board of Education approved a slew of new social studies textbooks featuring controversial slants on United States history, including an exaggeration of Moses’ influences on democracy and lessons that negatively portray Muslims.
Only a few months ago, controversy erupted when a UH Ph.D. candidate in the College of Education, Roni Dean-Burren, found that her son’s McGraw-Hill geography textbook described the Atlantic slave trade as a process that brought “millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.”
The book did not mention that these people were brought against their will as slaves.
What direction is our history education system moving toward, and how bad will its effects be?
“The good news is that throughout Texas, local school districts are allowed to choose their own textbooks,” associate history professor Matthew Clavin said. “The textbooks preferred by the state government, which experts across the state and country have widely condemned, are not circulating as widely as their advocates had hoped.”
Though it is a relief to know that these forms of misrepresentation haven’t spread as widely as some feared, we should also remember that Texas is a large state. The textbooks written for its classrooms can influence the content of materials sold around the country.
In the age of information, it only makes sense that history textbooks should have all the facts on their subjects. So how is it possible that the material that the state government provides for the students to learn is either sugarcoated or religiously biased?
“Governments govern by fear, suspicion and distrust. People stop believing in institutions and stop trusting their own judgment,” political science adjunct professor Jaye Ramsey Sutter said.
Meaning: the government is, essentially, manipulating the people.
Voter turnouts in Texas could explain this phenomenon. In November 2015, only 8.3 percent of the voting age population voted on ballots that could affect the state constitution.
As long as we keep this up, there is no reason to even consider whether or not our state could get better at crafting policy in the classroom.
By making her voice heard, Dean-Burren managed to fix the McGraw Hill error. Through Facebook posts, tweets and a video she posted, people came to see the significance of the mistake made.
Even the McGraw Hill CEO, David Levin, came to acknowledge the error and ordered changes. Though he claims that the error was purely editorial, he has taken steps to ensure this history does not repeat.
If one person was able to impact one of the biggest textbook companies in the world, there is no telling what each eligible citizen can do if everyone collectively managed to vote for better policies and people of authority.
In a Democratic society, we choose who represents us. Those who seek to misrepresent our history are not fit for office.
The past cannot be erased, but hiding it only stains the future.
Opinion columnist Krishna Narra is a marketing junior and may be reached at [email protected]