School Curriculum Controversies
by Anjali Patel
Questions regarding the validity of school curriculums across the United States have emerged especially within the last couple of years. From the history textbooks to the pieces of literature selected for the classroom, the material students are exposed to in school is increasingly being doubted. Arguments such as how history textbooks are biased and how the majority of literature comes from one particular area of the world have sculpted a rather negative perspective towards this aspect of the American education system.
In many ways, these assertions are not incorrect. I live in an extremely diverse area of New Jersey. Unfortunately, the school curriculum does not reflect the student body. The majority of literature we read in class come from the United States and Europe and include the classics such as Shakespeare’s plays. Although I was aware that there was more of an emphasis on American and European history and current events, the realization of how unaware I was of did not strike me until late middle school. Starting in around eighth grade, I started to read books that came from various parts of the world including the Middle East and East Asia. For example, after reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, I learned about the Taliban and their effect on Afghanistan. Prior to reading the novel, I had not known about the Taliban or the Afghani culture that the Western media often overlooks. These types of events throughout history were rarely, if ever discussed in school. I realized how ignorant I was when it came to forming opinions on world events. I knew so little about the rest of the world that constructing a view on the entire planet based on my concentrated knowledge seems almost ironic.
Although it is significant for one to educate him or herself on various current and historical events to see more of the world, it is exhausting. The modern day offers something incredible—the internet. At any moment of the day, one can pull out his or her smartphone and look up information about anything. With the abundance of information humans are exposed to on a daily basis, humanity is bound to overthink different aspects of life. In the United States, people have access to, for the most part, everything on the internet. With a rise in awareness, people are obviously going to desire more material that all too often remains undiscussed in history and English courses. However, it is obviously impossible to be knowledgeable on every part of the world at every moment. Time is not only a scarce resource in class but also in everyone’s personal life. Balance is a necessary component to live in a healthy state of mind. Continuously obtaining information is not physically or mentally possible.
Altogether, picking and choosing what information is taught or what somebody will expose themselves to is essential. There is no absolute or perfect solution to what should be taught in the classroom. One alternative could be to vary literature pieces studied throughout the years and placing emphasis on differing parts of history in places all over the world. This way, some students will learn about the depth of Native American legends while another class will learn more about the Iranian Revolution. This approach indirectly makes the assertion that no demographics’ history is better or more significant than the other. The question is to what extent can this method actually work in the real world.