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Representation in Education

todayFebruary 21, 2018 2

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By Savannah Howard
Blog Content Contributor

On Thursday, Feb. 1, Monteplier High School in Vermont became the first high school in the United States to raise a Black Lives Matter (BLM) flag. This was done in support of the BLM movement and to bring awareness to the inequality of education and resources to black students.

BLM brings the sometimes uncomfortable subject of race to the forefront. It calls out the issues of institutional racism and racial profiling that are rampant in this country. Others may disagree. In response to criticism claiming the BLM flag is anti-police, Monteplier High School’s principal, Mike McRaith, emphasized that it is not anti-police, but anti-bias. Although the flag raising resulted in some backlash, there has been an outpouring of support from the local community and across the nation, and it has sparked an important conversation. The administrators and community have recognized the lack of representation and the exclusion of marginalized groups in the education system and are taking steps to change that.

The United States is a diverse, cultural melting pot. There is so much that black people and other people of color have contributed to this nation and to the world. So why is our education reduced to being mostly taught about people of European descent?

blm school
What we learn in school should represent everyone equally and accurately. Illustration by Savannah Howard.

Students should not be subjected to wait until specific times (Black History Month, National Hispanic Heritage Month, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, etc.) to learn about important events and people of those races. And sadly, when those topics are taught, they are skimmed over, like an afterthought. At what point will students stop being told that the ‘First Thanksgiving’ was peaceful or that the Civil War was fought over the preservation of the south’s heritage? Are we going to keep downplaying Japanese internment camps and continue saying that Native Americans moved to reservations willingly? At what point are we going to cut the bull?

A lot of people of color are shocked when they go off to college or do their own research and have to relearn history because the curriculum from high school and younger grades is whitewashed or not taught at all. Because education in America is so Euro-centric, students do not get the opportunity to view other cultures with an open mind or a sliver of understanding. They are automatically repulsed by anything or anyone deemed as an Other. One of the big influences of race relations in this country is that whiteness is presented as the norm in schools. How can we grow to respect our differences when students are being taught that whiteness is the standard?

Our schools are integrated but the curriculum is not, and that needs to change.

Featured illustration by Savannah Howard.

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