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Revolutionize history education

By McKenzie Ward

When someone asks me what my major is, I always get a little nervous to answer.

And it’s not because I hate being a history major because if you ask any one who truly knows me, I am so proud to be a student of the amazing History Department here at FSU.

And my love for history began way before I even stepped foot into May Hall.

But it’s because so many people have the wrong idea of what it means to be a history major based on how they were taught history in K-12.

In K-12, when students are taught history, they are being taught to memorize dates and events. They are also, like most subjects in K-12, being taught to a test and the goal of gaining an understanding of a subject is often lost.

During middle school and high school, I had some amazing history teachers who were truly dedicated to their professions.

I owe everything to my eighth-grade history teacher, Mr. Costanza. He was the first teacher who saw my love for history and inspired me to pursue the major – I even considered teaching it.

Without Mr. Costanza, I probably wouldn’t be a history major.

In high school, I took Advanced Placement classes that I thought would prepare me to be a history major. I spent hours upon hours reading the assigned textbook, taking notes, and memorizing dates with the hope of obtaining college credit.

So, when I stepped foot into my first 300-level history course as a freshman, I thought I was well prepared.

I was wrong.

I quickly realized that being a history major wasn’t memorizing dates and events. Instead, I spent my time reading primary sources to analyze their importance and secondary sources to better understand the historiography of historical events.

What also came as a surprise was the material we studied. For the first time, I wasn’t just studying the history of white, powerful men, but I was analyzing the history of underrepresented people because their history matters too.

While students have little time in the classroom, it is crucial that the United States history curriculum is revamped to teach history honestly, even if that means the country isn’t always in the right.

But by neglecting to teach the history of the United States in such a manner that does not only focus on the voices and experiences of white people, it does a major disservice to K-12 history education.

The United States education system needs to look at history curricula because teaching history is more than just learning about historical events.

Teaching and learning history is about establishing critical thinking skills, advancing research and writing techniques, and developing critical and advanced analytical skills.

K-12 educators should be introducing their students to primary sources that students can engage with in such a way that they can’t with a textbook. Students will be able to analyze these small snippets of history that may inspire them to ask their own questions.

Students should also be introduced to historical monographs, which I would argue do a much better job at explaining history than an outdated textbook.

Not only do we need to be reviewing the way history is taught, but we need to revise what we teach students at the K-12 level.

In K-12, teachers only addressed slavery and oppression faced by the Black community. We never got a chance to study and analyze Black achievements and contributions to our country’s history.

I am not asking we erase history. Rather, I am asking we broaden the topics that K-12 educators are required to cover in order to provide a more accurate representation of United States history.

What can be done is introduce legislation that would combat the lack of diversity in K-12 education by requiring educators to teach African American, Hispanic, Jewish history, etc. in K-12.

By erasing the voices of underrepresented groups in the United States, people will never know the full extent of our country’s history.

Because without their voices, experiences, and contributions, our history is not complete.

But rather just complete of white men.

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