The history of women and minorities should be fully integrated into historical curricula

Dont+confine+the+histories+of+marginalized+groups+to+a+mere+thirty+days.

Moriah Chiang

Don’t confine the histories of marginalized groups to a mere thirty days.

Matthew Metz, Guest Writer

Amidst Women’s History Month, and having recently concluded Black History Month, I found myself asking the question: Why relegate their stories, and those of other minority groups, to only one month out of the year? Surely the individuals and initiatives we hear about, as ground-shattering as they are, deserve more. I haven’t found a good reason for why their stories are only told for one month, if that. Thus, I argue: the history of women and minorities should be fully integrated into historical curricula.

Let me be exhaustively clear: my goal is to empower and center previously underrepresented stories and people, not take away their time in the spotlight. I appeal instead to a more contextual and holistic basis for my thoughts rather than treating this issue in a vacuum, like others may.

Limiting underrepresented historical narratives to one designated focus period, though admittedly well-intentioned, creates several problems. The first is that one month is simply not enough time to educate anyone about the vast contributions of these stories and the people they represent. Those who have taken Perspectives on World History — if you have not, do take it with Dr. Chapman — will understand the angst of barely even scratching the surface of so many important people and events. Wherever there have been important events, there women and minorities are involved and their stories need to be integrated into the telling of those events. Take several notable American examples. The Allies would not have succeeded in crippling the Nazi industrial complex without the Tuskeegee Airmen, a fearsome all-Black air wing that protected strategic bombers throughout the later years of World War Two. The nation-spanning railroads are as much the product of Chinese-American labour as anyone else’s. The moon landings would not have happened without JoAnn Morgan, Margaret Hamilton, and many other women and minorities working behind the scenes. The list is endless.

The second, and arguably larger problem, is that separating the histories of women and of minorities into specific focus periods risks unintentionally separating their narratives from “regular” history. By isolating these stories from common narratives for the sake of focus, an unintended consequence is that they may be perceived as competing narratives. People may implicitly associate the historical events only with the highlighted groups, not as part of the mosaic of history. This would be the most disempowering to underrepresented groups, as people would have to seek out specific sources dedicated to those groups if they are separated from “conventional history.” It would even serve to further entrench the dominant historical narratives that exclude them.

So, what next? Clearly, immediately cancelling months dedicated to highlighting underrepresented stories would be counterproductive. My proposition is the progressive integration of those stories into the conventional narrative. Doing so provides a more holistic account of any major event, empowers all relevant stakeholders, provides a greater level of popular understanding, and promotes cross-demographical reconciliation. When we teach about the moon landings, for example, knowing more about the many diverse peoples who came together serves to honor their contributions while demonstrating truly integrated cooperation. Naysayers who argue that doing so would put too much of a strain on students fail to remember that those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it, and that the declining quality of American public education has much to do with oversimplification. It is worth noting that, as of the third quarter of 2020, the US does not rank among the top 20 countries in terms of education.

I have argued that the histories of women and minorities should be fully integrated into historical curricula nationwide. Doing so addresses the problems of shallow exploration and the risk of permanent “otherizing” and places their contributions into the mainstream where they belong, as equally important actors in every major historical event. This will serve to encourage and empower future generations to achieve greatness, cross-demographical cooperation, and reconciliation. In doing so, society grows closer to the ideal of inclusion and opportunity.

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Opinions expressed in letters and other editorials, unless otherwise stated, are those of the writers and not of The Horizon staff or the college collectively.

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