Ferguson: The importance of teaching history

Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain. The state to which Oscar Hammerstein dedicated an entire musical has recently made headlines for a controversial reason. Legislators are attempting to cut funding to all AP U.S. History classes, also known as APUSH in the state’s public school system. While this course of action may be puzzling, the reason they are doing this is because legislators say AP U.S. History is anti-American.

AP U.S. History does exactly what the title suggests, every facet of our country’s history is taught and discussed. The class is designed to delve deeper into our history so that students may have a greater depth of knowledge. It takes apart important pieces of our history, both good and bad. Instead of memorizing dates students have the opportunity to actually discuss the events and form opinions about what Americans have done and why Americans have done it. The victorious founding after a successful split from England and its monarchy, the creation of democracy and sending a man to the moon are a few of the many events in which we are proud of. But with these victories and triumphs our country is also laced with heartbreak and controversy. AP U.S. History explores every event which has made our country what it is now. 

Republican Representative and author of the billDan Fischer would like to see an end to funding for APUSH, as he deems it is unpatriotic and promotes what is bad about our country. House Bill 1380 addresses the idea that APUSH is currently failing to teach “American exceptionalism,” or the belief that America is superior to other nations. Idea sound familiar? Germany had a similar view known as “Sonderweg” during the rise of the Nazi regime leading up to World War II. Germany has an interesting past, much like America. Though as bad as it was, Germany is learning from it and emerging stronger.

The whole point of history is to teach about the triumphs and mistakes which led to today’s world. It would be ludicrous to teach one without the other. Future generations need to know about slavery, racism and many other events which took place in our own backyard. While many wish that occurrences such as slavery had not happened, it did. We were then able to learn from it because that is what you do. Mistakes are made, you learn from them, and then you can move on to a brighter future.

Though many wish it were, America is not just a land full of opportunity and warm apple pie. America has a past. But, America also has a future. History courses string together the events of the past to show the way to the best possible future. Without knowledge of the past we remain unaware of ways to enhance the future. Ignoring the past causes us to stay the way we are, blocking our way to a successful future. 

With the absence of APUSH, future generations will not know about Japanese internment camps. They will not be tested on the significance of Martin Luther King, Jr. They will not write reports on the thousands of lives lost on the Trail of Tears. America is in no place to brush off the bleak moments in its history, especially when we are still making mistakes.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight to end racism? Ferguson, Missouri would argue we’re still fighting for it. The women’s suffrage movement? Women are still struggling to get equal pay. America doesn’t outlaw biracial marriages anymore, that’s good right? The LGBTQ community would argue that there is still much to be done. Issues that were prevalent years and years ago are still issues today. Clearly there is still much to learn from the past. If we diminish the opportunities to learn about our mistakes, then we shall be damned to repeat them forever.

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Alysha Ferguson

Alysha Ferguson