Right now schools have no idea how to teach online and kids will go to school irregularly this fall. It will take 20 years for school districts to dig themselves out of the Covid crisis and start thinking about what is actually important to teach. Meanwhile, the US history curriculum is already so outdated that it’s offensive.
I was a US history major in college. I also taught the high-gloss curricula of Advanced Placement US history to my son. What I’ve learned is that even the best research and most popular textbooks are mired in White supremacy culture. And, to be honest, I found that my teenaged son was more able than I am to catch racist transgressions, because I’ve spent so many years learning whitewashed history.
For example, American colonists lived under British common law, so children inherited their legal status from their father. In 1656 Elizabeth Key, a Black woman with an English father, sued and won freedom for herself and her son. By that time colonists were already dependent on enslaved labor. So the colonists changed the laws so that a child inherited legal status from the mother. This enabled slavery to become a caste because it didn’t matter what percentage English a child was. Also, this way White men could rape Black women and actually profit from rape by gaining another person to enslave.
This is a new way to think for me. It’s the essence of the study of history: understanding the past so we can better understand the present. It takes some digging on the parent’s part to find a fresh approach to US history that makes sense in the context of Black Lives Matter.
I recently came across this list from Green Mountain Farm-to-School:
It’s no accident that:
You learned about Helen Keller instead of W.E.B, DuBois.
You learned about the Watts and L.A. Riots, but not Tulsa or Wilmington.
You learned that George Washington’s dentures were made from wood, rather than the teeth from slaves.
You learned about Black ghettos, but not about Black Wall Street.
You learned about the New Deal, but not red lining.
You learned about Tommie Smith’s fist in the air at the 1968 Olympics, but not that he was sent home the next day and stripped of his medals.
You learned about Black crime, but White criminals were never lumped together and discussed in terms of their race.
You learned about states rights as the cause of the Civil War, but not that slavery was mentioned 80 times in the Ordinance of Secession.
Privilege is having history rewritten so that you don’t have to acknowledge uncomfortable facts.
Racism is perpetuated by people who refuse to learn or acknowledge this reality.
You have a choice.
This list excites me because I have so many new things to learn, and I have the ability to see the world so much more clearly. As homeschoolers we can make sure to challenge racist retellings of history and show our kids a more honest path through US history.
As White parents It’s not enough to chant Black Lives Matter. Racism comes from families and the stories we tell. Parents need to make it a priority to find new ways to tell old stories because Black Lives Matter should be a major theme for US History and for the rest of homeschool as well.