Education: There’s More to History Than the Accomplishments of White Men

I, like famed historian, author, and lecture-speaker Niall Fegurson, think the accomplishments of a group nations roughly identifiable under the banner ‘the West’ were pretty good. Sure, the Western nations beget the Transatlantic slave trade, but they were also greatly responsible for ending it. (And there are still plenty of slaves all around the world today–not just black slaves either.) The advancements that came from the Western European powers (and later America) in the realms of science, medicine, and technology literally changed the world, the course of human history. And while the white men who were at the helm of the Western nations didn’t accomplish all of this on their own, I will give credit where credit is due and admit that those old foggy white guys accomplished great things.

But what about the Africans, the Indians, the Chinese? What were they doing while white men were remaking the world? What part do women have to play in the course of human history? The educational system here in America has been attempting to respond to these questions over the last 30 or so years with the proliferation of African-American studies departments, women studies, and LGBT studies. Yeah those old white men were great, but they didn’t do it all by themselves seems to be the message coming out of the academy.

I consider it a positive that colleges and universities have begun to pay attention the accomplishments of people who weren’t white or in possession of a penis. A history that only highlights the actions of one group–white males–while ignoring, if every so politely, the concurrent actions of non-white males cannot be a complete or accurate reflection of the historical record; white men were on the stage, and they sure spent plenty of time in the spotlight, but they were not the only actors in the play.

In California a new law called the California Fair Education Act has been passed that requires a greater degree of diversity in the educational materials used in elementary and secondary schools. Specifically, the act requires schools to include the contributions of Native Americans, people with disabilities, and those considered LGBT as part of the curriculum. The law is vague in terms of how it is supposed to be implemented, but I’m supposing that teachers should be able to clearly tell whether or not they have included factual information about each of the aforementioned groups in the curriculum.

If the new law is implemented in such a way as to add breadth and depth to the curriculum then I will see that as a plus; however, I don’t think the sexuality of an artist, writer, musician, or politician should take central stage when discussing the aforementioned individuals’ contributions to their respective society. But a discussion of how third and fourth genders were a part of some Native American societies before Native people’s were conquered by Europeans might be an illuminating addition the study of Native societies. This new law should not be used as an opportunity to push the ‘gay agenda,’ which can roughly be translated into ‘an attempt to make sure that homosexual behavior is considered morally acceptable to children and teenagers.’ You can teach about the history of blacks in American without encouraging ‘race-mixing’–as the white nationalists, racists, and white supremacists would call it; you can teach about gay, lesbian, and transgender people without browbeating your students into accepting that homosexual behavior should be considered normal.

I hope the implementation of this new law will be used as an opportunity to teach students more about history, and not an opportunity to force a moral acceptance of homosexual behavior.

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