I had my first Viewpoint Diversity Day assembly last week and not only did it teach me a lot about Viewpoint’s diverse student body, but it also shed light on topics that need to be addressed more frequently in society.
I went to a small private, Catholic school in the area from Kindergarten to eighth grade. We celebrated holidays such as Veteran’s Day and Valentine’s Day, but never discussed Black History Month or the diverse community we had at our school. In eighth grade, we took a class trip to the Museum of Tolerance after reading The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.
Aside from this one lesson and the annual reminder of MLK Day, the topic of diversity was absent in the curriculum. After coming to Viewpoint, my family and I are happy to be part of a community where diversity is celebrated and where we are encouraged to read books about other cultures to give us a more worldly perspective.
Two weeks ago, it was discovered that parents in the Utah school districts were given a choice to opt out of learning about Black History Month. According to USA Today, Maria Montessori Academy Director Micah Hirokawa posted Friday to the North Ogden, Utah, school’s Facebook page that he had sent out a letter that allowed families “to exercise their civil rights to not participate in Black History Month at the school.”
Do these parents opt out of instruction when their kids are learning about Christopher Columbus? Why should they be able to opt out of their kids taking part in Black History Month? Christopher Columbus has been taught to school children for hundreds of years and he murdered Native Americans and did many other horrific things on American soil.
Furthermore, students in middle school and high schools across our country learn about presidents and war generals who owned slaves, yet we hesitate to change our history books and incorporate people of color who contributed to creating our great Nation. Learning about these white men each year should not be valued over learning about the hardships and triumphs of African Americans and other minority groups.
I served on my middle school’s Student Council from 5th to 8th grade. We put on school assemblies to show school spirit and to announce community events that were occurring each month. Additionally, we acknowledged Red Ribbon Week and did outreach projects for the needy.
Although these things are important, the topic of diversity and Black history was never touched on from Kindergarten-8th grade. I know my previous school is not the only school failing their students when it comes to educating them on diversity. Celebrating diversity and educating students on the contributions of African Americans and other minority groups should not be optional. Black history is part of America’s story and should be shared.
In conclusion, learning about Black history should be mandatory throughout our country. Schools should adopt Diversity Days and/or celebrations in the same way Viewpoint does for their students. Viewpoint’s commitment to diversity is clear through their abundant seminar offerings on Diversity Day, and also in the way they incorporate these topics into their instruction and literature selections.
Educating students on our country’s rich history should be done honestly and ethically; and it should include representation from all ethnic groups. If all schools implement these measures, students will hopefully gain a better understanding of other cultures and what minority groups have done and continue to do for the United States of America. Education and information about diversity will only lead to tolerance and acceptance, which is desperately needed in our country today.