Students ill-served when topics like slavery are glossed over
According to a new Southern Poverty Law Center report, “Teaching Hard History,” the subject of slavery is taught poorly to U.S. students, and even “sentimentalized or sanitized,” with lessons presented in disconnected pieces and teachers failing to place lessons contextually within American history, says Education Week.
Part of the problem may lie with educators who fail to use historic material when teaching and don’t link slavery’s legacy to events today, according to the report.
The report also found fault with states, saying they were inconsistent in how they develop curriculum and noting that, in many cases, current academic research and trends are ignored.
The subject of slavery cannot be taught in a vacuum or as a single, frozen moment of our nation’s history. This is a disservice to students. Divorcing the subject from its legacy sanitizes that legacy.
While the instinct of curriculum designers may be to tread carefully around uncomfortable topics like slavery, that is not in the best interest of students. The promise of school is to educate children — and sometimes that means delving into subjects that are challenging and uncomfortable for children, educators and administrators alike.
Administrators would be better-served by re-examining the curriculum they have in place across all grades and sourcing experts such as the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project for guidelines. Presenting the subject of slavery contextually — not just its historic relevance, but its impact today — is crucial to helping young students examine it in full.
- Education Week How is Slavery Taught in U.S. Schools? Not Well, Says Study