The Fight for Accurate History in the Classroom

By Jessica Bradwell

My mother has been a special education teacher for students who are emotional disabled in South Carolina for almost 20 year now, a career she has always been very passionate about. Her aim is not only to uplift and encourage her students to learn, but also make sure the education they are receiving is accurate and honest. This is especially hard to do in South Carolina, which has always seemed to rank almost dead last in education in the country every single year.

A couple years ago she realized the history book assigned for that year’s curriculum was completely inaccurate and seemed to only focus on a certain point of view. She discovered this was especially noticeable in the chapter covering the Civil War. The chapter had about two paragraphs on African-American’s role during the Civil War. Along with that, it seemed to have only a brief paragraph on women’s role in the Civil War. The rest of the chapter seemed to be focused on the role of white men during the war.

After critically analyzing the book she decided that in order to fully educate her students on the subject she was not going to use the book. Instead she decided to use an alternate text that focused strictly on African-American’s role in the Civil War and another that focused on women’s roles. She wanted to her students to fully understand just how big the role of African Americans and women had in the Civil War. She would still be covering all the points in her curriculum just in a different way.

One day she was called in the principal’s office where she met with one of her student’s parents. The parent was concerned because the student had not brought home his textbook in a while. My mom explained that the book’s chapter on the Civil War was not giving well rounded overview of the war and everyone’s role. She went on to explain how the whole book was written by white males and just how biased the book seemed to be, especially in the chapter. She retrieved the book from her classroom and went on to show proof throughout the entire textbook.

The parent, who also happened to be an upper-class white female still could not grasp at the idea of this even being remotely true. She was insisting her child use the textbook. My mom continued to debate the subject but was told to come to some kind of agreement with the parent. My mom accepted the truce but still had a trick up her sleeve. She decided that her students would no longer have homework and would be doing all work in class. The students continued to do work without the textbook and the parent had no homework to complain about.

Although this was a small fight towards change in terms of race and gender bias in history books, it was a victory. Without my mom these students would not fully understand the importance that African-Americans had in this war and the important role women had as well.

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