Article by Nikki Halsted
Before anyone comes at me with pitchforks and torches, hear me out. Despite how much I disagree with Keller’s views or my strong distaste for Clinton, I don’t think it’s a good idea to remove Hillary Clinton or Helen Keller from social studies curriculum in schools.
I spent most of my college education studying Social Science Education with a focus in history until I changed my major with only one class left to take. Quite frankly, it’s policy decisions like this that drove me out of pursuing a career in the classroom to begin with.
Behind any social studies lesson is a hidden curriculum which shapes how students subconsciously digest knowledge. The hidden curriculum is essentially how our schools instill American values and morals into our youth. It is how students are presented any information will contribute to their worldview — not necessarily what information they are provided.
In the case of Keller and Clinton, their place in our history is no more irrelevant than the heroes or iconic figures we often glorify. I preach all the time about how we should consider both the positives and negatives of history to make any progress. These women are no different.
We can hate on Clinton all day, but it doesn’t change the fact her discourse as the first female candidate to run for presidential office has inspired women on both ends of the spectrum. Even if she is not the ideal first Madam President, there are now women who believe they can because someone else did.
Keller’s beliefs are considerably radical. However, it doesn’t change the fact she overcame her disabilities and made history as the first deaf and blind woman to receive a college education. She still advocated what she believed in — even if we disagree with her — while being confronted with obstacles none of us could ever fathom ourselves experiencing.
In a history class, it is crucial that teachers present breakthroughs from any historically disadvantaged groups — i.e. women, those with disabilities, etc. Of course we should note the progress each group has made. However, there is a fine line between political correctness and inclusivity — which all comes down to the teacher’s pedagogy.
State education standards don’t implement themselves, the teachers do. However, the political statement the Texas Board of Education is making does not set the right example other states (or individual teachers) should model after.
Clinton and Keller’s accomplishments (and even failures) can be taught without glorifying or minimizing their position in history.
The case with Keller and Clinton only exemplifies the perpetual issue of how education standards are constantly manipulated to gear students into one way of thinking. It reflects the desperate need for schools to drop the teacher-centered approach to establishing a democratic, student-centered form of education.
The key to learning is applicability. What does this involve? Presenting both sides of the case and challenging students to critically understand why they think or feel a certain way. If schools are a ground for free speech and thought, then omitting a part of history from its curriculum only takes away from its credibility.
American culture is individualistic, and schools have a responsibility to ensure students are culturally competent. Imposing a belief system into education policy will only minimize student engagement and learning. Rather than emphasizing positive aspects of individualism, its attempt to conform student beliefs through its standards is essentially collectivist — which will never be compatible with American culture.
In addition, it affects the teacher retention rates in social studies education. Retention rates are highest among newer teachers. Put two-and-two together and we see how indoctrination has impacted the incoming teacher force.
Rather than using schools as a facilitator of student learning, it has become an instrument for indoctrinating beliefs on behalf of both political parties through its social studies standards. When schools narrow their focus to a single objective for their students, that is where it fails. That is largely the reason American schools have generally failed to begin with.
I stand strong in my conservative views, but the one institution whose policies should remain non-partisan is education. We should swallow our pride enough to put students’ needs before our own personal beliefs. American values are nonetheless important and should be incorporated, but this can be done without partisan influence.
Until state and national officials reform standards, policies, and raise a new generation of diplomatic teachers, our schools will continually spiral into failure.
Cover image courtesy of CNN