Lack of POC teachers undermines minority history

The+MCPS+history+curriculum+has+various+flaws+that+need+to+be+addressed.

The MCPS history curriculum has various flaws that need to be addressed.

Maria Alba-Herrera, Senior Opinions Writer

Richard Montgomery is establishing new history courses focused on people of color. The school has finally taken student voices into account through the integration of courses like IB HL history of Africa and the Asian Pacific Islander Desi-American course. However, in going down the slippery slope of attempting to enrich students’ learning of other cultures, the school must make additional changes that do not just involve the curriculum, but how it is taught.

There are various issues with the current, overly westernized and eurocentric curriculum. Education systems provide a way for people to cultivate values different from familial ones. We cannot afford to indoctrinate students with overly eurocentric bias. Senior Nancy Mvogo Mbala said, “Acknowledging that white-centric history should not be taught as a required course while the history of so many other groups is taught as extracurricular or barely taught at all is problematic is important. By attempting to remedy that, it will create more socially aware individuals.”

As a POC student, it is disappointing to repeatedly learn about American history from eighth through tenth or eleventh grade. It denies POC students the opportunity to recognize the importance of their historical background. The denial of this right accompanied by the blatant lack of emphasis on the history of minorities sends a message about who the curriculum is geared towards.

A troubling phenomenon evident throughout the entire Montgomery County Public School’s history curriculum is the focus on colonization and dismal times of the exploitation of minorities. Instead of learning about their achievements and contributions, lessons spoon-feed information about their seemingly never-ending subjugation. Although it is important to acknowledge their oppression, it is also critical to learn about the beauty of different cultures and their contributions to history. 

The blatant lack of POC RM staff, specifically the Social Studies department directory, proves the new courses are an extremely surface-level change. Curriculums can be rewritten a million times but this is meaningless without actual systemic change – including hiring more POC teachers. Mbala said, “It’s a testament to the racial disparities in education and an example that our school has a significant amount of work to provide an equitable and comfortable environment for its POC students”

The significance of same-race teachers for the success of minorities is undervalued in MCPS. Increased racial representation in teachers helps minority students cultivate the idea that they can also be academically successful. According to a recent study by the Brookings Institution, “a disadvantaged black male’s exposure to at least one black teacher in elementary school reduces his probability of dropping out of high school by nearly 40 percent.” This significantly highlights how diverse teaching staff inevitably aids minority students to do better in school in the long run. 

Junior Paris Ye recently contributed to the creation of a new course, the Asian Pacific Islander Desi-American course, centered around the history of Asian American identities and their contributions to the US. The process was extremely difficult due to the lack of Asian teachers in the social studies department to help sponsor the course’s creation. Ye said, “The difficulty in creating the course highlights the lack of Asian-American representation. There’s such a problem of not having diversity within history courses – which I think is one of the most important courses in which to have teacher diversity. Especially when you’re offering new minority courses.”

The MCPS history curriculum has various flaws that need to be addressed. Thankfully, the school seems to be actively working towards long overdue change. Another course that is going to be offered for the first time next year is IB history of Africa. Social Studies teacher Todd Stillman, who will be teaching the course next year said, “We would love to have as diverse a staff as possible but that is going to be a long term issue. In the short term what we can control is teaching subjects that are of interest to students that are different to what they would typically learn.”

This issue, although pertinent at our school, is significant throughout the entire country. As a nation, we have grown far too accustomed to accepting and celebrating western points of view. This complacency has prevented us from being able to enact real and meaningful change, and more minority courses are necessary to prevent RM from falling into this dangerous cycle. RM could continue to force students to participate in “anti-racism” discussions during advisory but at the end of the day that does not matter when our school continues to endorse a culture and curriculum that indoctrinates students into only believing and understanding one historical point of view.