Learning the full truth and taking classes may not always go together
December 3, 2015
Tuesday, Dec. 1, marked 60 years since Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and move to the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and was arrested for it. This sparked a bus boycott and was a defining moment the American civil rights movement.
Parks is now rightfully remembered as an American hero, seen as a quiet woman who took a stand against a horrible injustice. She is one of the first people children learn about in elementary school, and children carry with them that image of an ordinary woman who simply thought enough was enough and decided to stand up for herself and not to give up her seat.
Recently however, articles have appeared in The Washington Post and Time that Parks was actually a radical activist, joining the NAACP and fighting for a variety of causes, including the desegregation of school, public places and justice for black victims of brutality and unfair treatment. Parks spent a lot of her life fighting for what she believed in, yet children in elementary school are just learning about that one moment of her activism. Rarely do children learn about her life, how she grew up and her deep involvement with activism.
We’re taught a lot of things in elementary school, some more accurate than others. We learned that Christopher Columbus was a wonderful explorer that intended to land where he did and obtained the land honorably, and that Rosa Parks was a quiet and ordinary woman who just got more than she bargained for one afternoon. Although our educators didn’t mean to lead us astray with these perceptions of members of American history, the truth is that they didn’t really tell us the whole story. Sure, you can only pack so much information into a single class, but these are people who shaped what the world is today. It seems important that they are understood.
As we get older and our perceptions change, it is important to look back at the history that is in engrained in our brains, things that were taught to us when we were young. We may see situations with new eyes, allowing ourselves to see different perspectives or finding new heroes, feeling a new respect for the heroes of the past. Through this we also might learn something new, discover new facts and occurrences that were somehow overlooked before. It’s important to never stop learning, and sometimes the best way to do that is to find new lessons through old stories.