By Vaughn Huelsman
Open an SPHS junior’s U.S. history textbook and the first thing you’ll find is a list of rules regarding flag etiquette. This hailing of American symbols is something that can be found throughout California’s Social Studies standards, and speaks to the nationalist angle that history curricula in the U.S. seems to take.
While pride in your nation can be positive, “patriotism” is taken to the extreme in America. The practice tends to erase the shortcomings of the country throughout history. This erasure means failing to fully acknowledge the oppression of Native Americans, nonwhite immigrants, LGBT people, and countless other groups, as well as the histories of many of the leaders of those groups who have made this nation what it is today.
Pressured by conservative lobbyists, the College Board has redefined its AP U.S. History curriculum, omitting anything considered to have an “anti-American bias.” The class now includes information on the United States’ founding documents and leaders and its capitalist economic structure, but downplays the stories of those who faced oppression but still played large roles in creating modern America. The brutal, federal American hand which spared no innocent lives in its imperialist expansion has been swept under the rug.
The result of whitewashing of curricula is generation after generation of students who have no understanding of true American history. Many educators combat this with commentary, but there are huge strides to be made on statewide and nationwide fronts.
Students who leave the classroom uneducated go on to perpetuate this cycle of oppression and erasure. The history and cultures of the groups that America has wronged need representation; their stories are all a part of what the U.S. flag symbolizes. If we can’t spare space in the textbook to tell those stories, there certainly is no space to further hail an American symbol that has been washed down to represent a nonexistent nation that can do no wrong.