I was in my junior year, sitting front row in my Race and Social Justice class at Edison High (a semester before transferring to Bullard), when I first heard the term “master narrative”. This phrase has been stuck in my head ever since; I even wrote one of my college essays about it. The master narrative is ever-present in the American education curriculum, as we see overwhelming Eurocentric and male-focused story telling in our history and literature classes. I recently realized further just how excluded black and female voices are from our curriculum as I noticed the neglection of their stories even during Black and Women’s’ History months. It’s my opinion that these histories need to be further implemented in the high school curriculum.
Only about 8-9% of our history classes cover black history, if at all, which is a daunting number given that there are 8.7 million black students in the American high school system. As disappointing and pathetic for our education system as this is, it makes sense. The most Black History Month is honored is in elementary school, and even then, we repeatedly learn the same stories about the same handful of black activists- MLK, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, etc. Once we get into junior and high school, what little we were taught each February is minimized. Those 8.7 million students deserve to know their history, and the untold stories of people like Fannie Lou Hamer, Bessie Coleman, and so many more need to be told. Black history is American history, and it needs to be taught as such.
Right alongside black history, Women’s’ history is often overlooked as well. Despite women making up half of the population, not many people can list historical figures besides Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, and Betsie Ross. My memories of elementary school Black History Month are quite bland, but my memories of March are nonexistent. I can’t tell you if I ever remember learning about Women’s’ history month. This is so heartbreaking to me, as a female student, because I know how important it is for young girls to know the history of their mothers and to be taught how strong, brave, and influential women can be.
To rob so many black and female students of their histories is criminal. To blatantly neglect all that black and female figures have done for American history is ignorant and harmful to not only those students, but to all students who are missing out on learning the full history.
How the US can work to improve how Black history is taught in schools
The Condition of Education – Preprimary, Elementary, and Secondary Education – Elementary and Secondary Enrollment – Racial/Ethnic Enrollment in Public Schools – Indicator May (2020)