Subject: Teaching History and Culture
Culture is an important aspect of people’s lives. The United States’ population is composed of an amalgam of cultures (Ravitch, 1992). As such, students should be taught not only about American culture but also about the diversity of cultures present in the country. If we do this, our students will grow up to be well-rounded and righteous and will not resort to prejudices against minority cultures. This memo will primarily stress the need for both multiculturalism and common culture in the American curriculum for the benefit of the students.
Specifically, this will talk about teachers’ role and assistance in building up and developing a sensitive and well-aware student body.
Education and culture are two concepts that go hand in hand. The purpose of education, according to Public Broadcasting Service (2001), is to teach cultural literacy. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary (2007), on the other hand, defines culture as “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group,” as well as “the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties especially by education.
” If students need to be taught about culture, then the curriculum should include a responsible and sensitive discussion of American history and culture as well as other cultures.
Your task as educators does not end in topics such as “arithmetic, reading, spelling, keyboard competences, simple geographic knowledge, languages, layout skills,” and presentation skills (Ormell, n.d.), but in more significant subjects that students will need as they face the wider, more challenging, and more diversified world. Since it is our public school’s role to open students’ “minds to new worlds, new ideas, and new possibilities,” and to help build a national identity that we all share, it is your priority as teachers to focus on the study of the history of the United States (Ravitch, 1992), without evading some important facts, figures, personalities, or events that make up the whole of our history as a people and as a nation. This is a must because the United States “fosters historical amnesia.” The U.S. Department of Education reported that more than half of all high school seniors do not even have a basic understanding of American history (Teaching American History, 2007). In your teaching of history, it is important to acknowledge truthfully and in all honesty the human rights violations that ruin the history of other nations, as well as our own (Ravitch, 1992), because our highest goal for our students is “the search for truth” (Hilliard, 1992). Even though most people do not agree with inculcating “the doctrines of U.S. guilt and multiculturalism” instead of just the “greatness of our heroes and successes” in our history classes (Schlafly, 2006), this is part of the truth you need to teach them.
History is important since it apprises people of their past, thus “it will enable them to judge of the future.” Students must learn through past events and experiences from history for them to respect the rights of individuals, regard the law, volunteer and participate in public life, and be concerned for the common good (Teaching American History, 2007). Moreover, history provides “a storehouse of information about how people and societies behave.” Information from the past can provide the “most vital evidence” as we figure out why people and societies behave as they do (Stearns, 1998).
Furthermore, it is your priority as educators to focus on the study of the culture of the United States. You are well aware that we live in an amalgamated American society and our culture is not solely composed of White contributions but the combined works of blacks and whites, “of men and women, of Native Americans and African Americans, of Hispanics and Asians,” of English, French, German, Mexican, Russian, Cuban, Chinese, Nigerian and Ghana’s immigrants, “of Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and of millions of other individuals” who have given their share into our rich and diversified culture (Ravitch, 1992). All these people came into our land to take part “in our democratic heritage and to become possessors of the grand ideas that created and sustained the democratic experiment” in our country. They have a rightful place in the making of our nation. To strengthen their works and contributions, the educational system has a lot of responsibility to make these people true and sensitive Americans (Ravitch, 2002).
According to political activist Phyllis Schlafly (2006), public schools are the ones that define the American culture and the kind of environment our students will live in, “and they are doing it in violation of what the American people want.” While it is the general task of public schools to guide the elements that determine our culture, namely, the morals, attitudes, knowledge, and decision-making, of 89 percent of American students (Schlafly, 2006), it is your primary responsibility to “analyze culture, its concepts and keywords, and then to introduce and explain” these to students. Afterwards, you step back and let students “discover and interpret the meanings” of culture for themselves (Nakata, 2001).
Moreover, it is your task to erase ethnocentricity and prejudice and correct misconceptions in the meanings students find. However, you yourselves should be free of prejudice, ethnocentricity, and misconceptions so that you will be effective in your tasks. Your teaching of history, literature, and art, should be done in such a way that it diminishes and actively combats prejudice, and promotes appreciation for all skin colors, religions, languages, and other differences (Ravitch, 1992).
Most societies have valued education. “A good schooling regime could produce a small pool of young adults with the full mix of admirable values, disciplines, habits and awareness needed” to secure a good future for a nation (Ormell, n.d.). If this is how we value education and our students’ future, it is in your hands as educators to hone them into socially-responsible and culturally-sensitive individuals, ready to take on larger and more diverse roles in the society.
Hilliard, A. (1992). Why we must pluralize the curriculum. Educational Leadership.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. (2007). “Culture.” Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary.
Retrieved October 15, 2007 from http://merriam-webster.com/dictionary/culture
Nakata, H. (2001). The role of teachers as ‘InterCulture Practitioners’ in teaching Japanese
culture. Oxford Brookes University Research Centre. Retrieved October 16, 2007
Ormell, C. (n.d.) Challenging the Imagination is the Essence of Education. Retrieved
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Ravitch, D. (1992). A culture in common. Educational Leadership.
Ravitch, D. (2002). Diversity, tragedy, and the schools: A considered opinion. Brookings.
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Schlafly P. (2006). Public schools define American culture. Eagle Forum. Retrieved October
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Stearns, P. (1998). Why study history? American Historical Association. Retrieved
October 16, 2007 from http://www.historians.org/pubs/Free/WhyStudyHistory.htm
Cite this Teaching History and Culture
Teaching History and Culture. (2016, Jun 23). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/teaching-history-and-culture/