Making History Everyone’s Story

Eurocentrism in the history curricula of schools across New York City is problematic.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I sit in my history class, cringing as I hear my classmates and teacher say “Ganges”

(gan-jees), despite the fact that I, as a South Asian, have grown up surrounded by people who call it the Ganga (guhn-gaa). After days and days of learning about events of European history, we approach the history of Indian civilization, and yet neither my teachers nor my textbooks bother to show the minimum effort to pronounce a word without Anglifying it. This lack of effort among teachers and textbooks shows a lack of recognition for the importance of non-European history and makes non-white students, like me and many others, feel underrepresented.

As we try to combat racism as a nation, we fail to realize the inherent racism that exists in our classrooms, the problems hidden in our own history textbooks. Our textbooks devote pages and pages to the contributions of the allegedly great European men of our past while barely finding enough space to squeeze in the history and accomplishments of other groups. In doing so, this type of syllabus dresses white men as the creators of history and as superior to others.

By emphasizing the accomplishments of European civilizations and figures, we undermine those of other civilizations. Students need to learn about the accomplishments of various ethnic groups so they can develop a diverse world perspective and recognize the importance of each and every civilization. Currently, we tend to focus on the astronomical achievements of Galileo and other scientists of the Renaissance, while we ignore the fact that the Vedas, which were written much earlier, contain calculations for the age of the Earth and the Sun nearly perfectly without the aid of modern technology. We tend to focus on the predecessors of current European nations while failing to go in depth into the development of African civilizations. We study the purpose behind the art of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, while we brush over the intricacies of East Asian art. Students will not be able to completely respect and appreciate different cultures until they recognize the accomplishments of these different cultures.

While a more diverse history curriculum is necessary to instill respect for different cultures among students as well as to broaden their world perspective, a diverse history curriculum is also necessary to induce pride among students and make them feel represented. In a melting pot like New York City, this is especially important. For the 2018-2019 school year, 40.6 percent of the city’s students identified as Hispanic, 25.5 percent identified as Black, 16.2 percent identified as Asian, and 15.1 percent identified as white. We can’t ignore the history of ethnic minorities when they make up the majority of the students in our school system. It is important to recognize the histories of different ethnicities, so the students of our city can learn about our ancestors instead of feeling ignored and underrepresented.

The solution to the Eurocentric history curriculum that circulates throughout our city is simple but would take time to implement. Schools should start using textbooks that portray the histories of ethnic minorities. Teachers should be encouraged to learn more about topics of which they lack knowledge and allow students to talk about their personal experiences. The syllabus should be readjusted so students have time to learn about the histories of different regions and the growth of various civilizations. In this way, students will be able to learn about the contributions of different groups to the story of our world.

By making changes to our Eurocentric curriculum, students will be encouraged to recognize the contributions of various ethnic groups rather than celebrate the “glorious white man.” Students will feel represented and will be more engaged in a diverse curriculum that presents the stories of different people. This way, we don’t just learn about the white man's story. We learn about everyone’s story.