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Derrick Burnette

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#ThisIsMyEducation

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Photo credit: http://affectautism.com/

Imagine the following scenario taking place in a middle school classroom. An 8th grade history teacher asks her class, “What were some of Abraham Lincoln’s beliefs?” One student raises their hand and says, “Lincoln believed that slavery was morally wrong.” The teacher provides the student a piece of candy as a reward. Another student raises their hand and notes, “Piggybacking off of that, Lincoln believed in a strong, united nation.” This student also receives a piece of candy. Next, the teacher calls on the student sitting in the back of the class.

The student proudly states, “Although Abraham Lincoln freed millions of slaves, he strongly believed that whites were superior to blacks.” The class grew quiet, and the teacher looked in surprise at the student. “Um, that’s an interesting viewpoint, but if Lincoln did have that belief, do you think he would have freed millions of slaves? Think about it.” With their comment being dismissed, the student ashamedly shook their head and sat quietly in their seat. The teacher carried on with the lesson.

In classrooms all across America, there are young maturing students who don’t “receive a piece of candy” for answering questions that go against what the teacher is teaching. But why? Why are we discouraged from seeing a topic in a contrary perspective to that of the ideas set within the curriculum? Open-mindedness allows students to see issues critically from an opposing view and to evaluate their preconceived assumptions. Who doesn’t agree with that? However, modern school systems are restricting this ability from us; resulting in us to learn in an environment that teaches us there is only one way to view the outside world. But is there really one way to view the world?

If it wasn’t for the Internet, teenagers today would still only believe Christopher Columbus was an amazing explorer that discovered the New World and had a massive feast with the Native Americans. Crazy, right? Teaching a classroom of students in a selective perspective only prohibits their growth, doesn’t it? School is only teaching us the preferred side of a story, the story that assimilates us with the rest of society. Wait, isn’t school supposed to create higher thinkers? But yet, the school system creates a curriculum that only highlights socially accepted views and topics; thus, narrowing our beliefs and assumptions.

Objectively, school is supposed to teach us the history of the United States and the world. Am I right? All throughout school, we have been informed again and again about the evils of slavery and how it was one of America’s worst eras. From depressing in-class documentaries to vivid at-home reads, slavery is a staple of American history. Strikingly, the school system failed to inform me that the act of slavery has been practiced long before it ever happened when America was “discovered”; meaning the practiced was normal. Now does that mean slavery is morally right? In contemporary terms, of course not; but why do we only emphasize African enslavement in America when discussing racism? Certainly, there have been other groups of people other than blacks that have been enslaved. Have you ever had a lesson each school year discussing the terrifying era of Native American enslavement?

This way of teaching only provides students with half true facts and limits their knowledge.

Growing up, I’ve always been fed information without being skeptical about it. I accepted what I learned, and it shaped my beliefs and assumptions about the world. But isn’t that what school is intended for? To provide us with “facts”? I’m not saying school teaches us complete lies, it just doesn’t teach us the full story. Providing students with “half” facts and sending them into the world is detrimental to their role as a citizen. We need to be taught, not from a socially accepted perspective, but from a morally accepted perspective; where we are given information from all viewpoints, disregarding norms and what is socially appropriate. The thought of this idea will certainly frighten many adults, but this is our education. We need to be provided with the tools to shape our mentality. We are the ones being taught the knowledge, so why shouldn’t we examine it? The student who didn’t receive a “piece of candy” shouldn’t be negatively viewed upon or completely dismissed. Instead, we should embark on their ability to view the world differently. Isn’t that what makes each of us special? Think about it.    

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