Time to revise the history curriculum at Lewis High School

Kevin Palma-Aguilar, Staff Writer

History is an important part of education, and as it teaches students about the world, it is one of the most important high school subjects. The only problem is that history courses typically focus on White-American history or a whitewashed version of history. At a diverse school like Lewis High School, you wouldn’t expect that the history courses offered here lack Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) history. 

Junior Ashley Rodriguez-Vallejo, who takes US/VA History HN, agrees that not enough BIPOC history is taught. “I think that in my past history classes I haven’t learned enough about BIPOC. We’ve only touched on the subject of slaves and some important African Americans as well as Native Americans, but we have never learned anything about Latinos, Asians, or people from other ethnic groups,” Rodriguez-Vallejo said.

Many students that are from other ethnicities and races tend to agree with Rodriguez-Vallejo. Being a student at Lewis for three years, I saw first-hand that what I learned during most of my history classes revolved around people who were White and mainly of European descent. We learned about slavery almost every year but the way we were taught about slavery left some important details missing, such as softening slavery down or making it seem not as brutal, when in reality it was. Basically, high school students are just taught the tip of the iceberg. 

There was also the topic of Native Americans, but the last time I remember spending significant time learning about Native Americans was in middle school. The problem is that we rarely ever learn about Latinos, Asians, and other ethnic-groups/regions. All we’ve learned about Latinos is Cesar Chavez, and sometimes the Indigenous people of the Americas. But these subjects were barely taught in middle school, and I don’t remember learning about this in high school. The topic of Latinos is brushed over–even in Spanish classes. I did learn about Asian history my freshman or senior years. When the topic of Asian history came up, it mainly focused on countries involved in wars such as WWII. BIPOC is missing from the curriculum taught at Lewis.

Teaching BIPOC history is extremely important, not just at all schools but at schools like ours, where the population is incredibly diverse. 

Junior Kate Quispe, who is currently taking IB History of the Americas, talks about the importance of teaching BIPOC history at our school. “I feel it’s important to teach BIPOC history at our school because it’s better, like, if we start to understand things at an earlier age than to have to unlearn or relearn everything at a late age, you know? Especially because a lot of BIPOC history is erased from school textbooks or made to not sound as harsh, so I think it’s crucial that we start to understand how the reality really was and what kind of progress the country has made in order to make amends,” Quispe said.

The reality is that history is a subject that drastically underrepresents BIPOC. Quispe talked about how BIPOC history is taken out of school textbooks or changed a certain way so that it isn’t made out to seem as atrocious as it was. Whitewashing history robs students of learning the truth. This way of teaching history is just incredibly wrong because it’s important for people to know the oppressive past of American history. By not addressing this, students are less prepared to understand why certain issues in today’s society are wrong. 

Teaching BIPOC history is important because it allows all students to learn about other communities but also to be more inclusive about these communities. At Lewis HS, though we are one school, we are made up of people that come from so many different parts of the world. It is not fair to BIPOC students to completely disregard that and just brush over African-American history, Indigenous history, and history from other people of color such as Latinos. 

Lack of inclusion in the history curriculum is a big problem, and there is a simple solution to help solve it. In order for all students to feel comfortable and included, and also for other students to not be robbed of their chance of being educated on BIPOC history, because, after all, it is the school’s responsibility to teach their students about the world, the history curriculum can become more inclusive of all peoples and incorporate BIPOC history. By this, I don’t mean to spend a day or two learning about slavery, or how Native Americans lost their land, or about Cesar Chavez, I mean learning the true history of BIPOC in America, and educating the diverse population at Lewis HS about all communities.