Youth ED: Let's Talk About History

View from the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL where Bloody Sunday took place

Youth Ed is an op-ed series by the student-run digital space, Yellowhammer Youth, that seeks to highlight what Alabama public schools are not teaching. 

Alabama was ranked 49th in education in the U.S. this year. Clearly, our state’s education is lacking something- a lot, actually. However, there are certain subjects that just aren’t being taught to the extent to which they should be explored. One of them is history.

Some may find hour-long lectures about history boring (I’ve seen plenty of fellow students falling asleep taking notes), but I’ve always found it fascinating. The further we progress in high school, the less history we actually learn; we have heard almost all of it before, and we are being retold the same stories, often with less enthusiasm than elementary school. 

We never progress past the same point: after the second world war, my knowledge of history reaches a harsh cliff and drops to a few weak points about a few presidents in the gaping, empty time frame of history between the mid-20th century and today. 

What I have learned is what I have found for myself. Many teachers seem to assume, somehow, that we- the teenagers who were almost all unborn when 9/11  happened- know all about recent history and global conflicts. In all my history classes- especially APUSH- modern history was glossed over with an underlying message that of course, we should know all of this already- weren’t we consuming New York Times articles about the oil crisis and Washington Post columns about the war on terror with Eggos for breakfast in third grade? We were kids when all of it was going on. Yes, we were there, but we didn’t pay attention. It was our job, as children, to be blissfully ignorant. 

There are gaps in what knowledge we do have about earlier history, too. Never did my history teachers mention Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King Jr.’s advisor, an openly gay black man- and an excellent teaching point for intersectionality. Never did the lesson plans focus on the AIDS crisis, the Stonewall riots, or any event related to the LGBT+ community’s history, for that matter. 

And so, our history lessons become broken records, repeating the same overused stories that we’ve always heard, filtered by what was deemed important by somebody in an office who didn’t realize how much we were missing. If only they could see the gaps in our lessons- shouldn’t they try to fill up the holes with more learning?

Jennifer Stroud, 17, Tuscaloosa

Written by: Jennifer Stroud / @jennifer_stroud

Edited by: Isabel Hope / @isabamahope

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