August 14, 2020

I'm grateful to be an American, and I have a deep appreciation for this country--but I know that it must change.  For this country to make its own ideals come to fruition, it must undergo drastic, groundbreaking change.

Change often starts with young people.  We have our lives ahead of us and dreams in our heads.  Many of us set out to "make the world a better place."  For better or for worse, we can be quite open to change.

However, we can't make changes if we never learn why they need to be made in the first place.  How can a teenager address the stigmatization of mental health if she never learns about that stigma and how harmful it can be?  How can a student protest against harmful racial stereotypes present in media if he doesn't ever learn that they exist?

I believe that these are the types of issues that American students should learn about in school.  Rather than forcing our educators to "teach to the test,"  we should allow them to focus on topics that will enable American students to become more empathetic, open-minded, and informed.  We should give them the tools to become individuals who are willing to enact great change.

Without further ado, here are a few of the topics and issues that should be taught in American schools (and that I wish had been taught during my years in middle and high school):

1. Mental health education--particularly the fact that taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health

2. Empathy (for most people, it's a learned skill, and it's one that our society desperately needs)

3. The history of the multiple and diverse Native American societies and cultures (before Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Exchange had an impact on the Americas)

4. The post-1900 history of Native Americans in the United States (according to this research article published in 2015, 87 percent of state history standards did not cover Native American history in a post-1900 context during the 2011-2012 school year)

5. The real history of the annexation of Hawaii

6. The history of Hawaiian culture and Hawaii's people (in a pre-annexation context)

7. How mass incarceration is our generation's version of slavery--in fact, schools should be allowed to show Ava DuVernay's 13th to students

8. The lives and impact of people of color who were innovators, creators, artists, authors, geniuses, etc.

9. How the War on Drugs and the War on Crime were utilized to target people of color, particularly the Black community

10. The reality of implicit biases--we all have them, but harmful ones can also be unlearned with enough effort

11. The proper terminology for referring to certain populations

12. The reality of gender norms and misogyny, and how they are engrained in our society in more ways than most of us realize

13. Provide concrete evidence about the negative impacts of social media (e.g., impact on perceived stress levels, body image, mental illness symptoms, etc.)

14. How to:  taxes, mortgages, building credit, investing, supporting small businesses, IRAs, 401ks, W2s, etc.

15. Alternatives to college for students who would be less likely to benefit from a college degree/experience

16. The work of Black Lives Matter and other social movements

17. The reality of police brutality, including the lives of victims (including but not limited to Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor)

18. Information on school shootings, particularly in the context of isolation and bullying

19. Media biases (and the respective biases of major American news outlets)

20. How to research political candidates in anticipation of elections

21. Harmful stereotypes present in popular media (e.g., "the angry Black girl") and how we can challenge them

I'd love to know your thoughts on this topic!  What issues do you wish were covered in American school curriculums?


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