Social studies and civics teachers should be discussing difficult topics like inequality, prejudice and racism with their students—but many aren’t because they feel uncomfortable, don’t have the curricular resources or haven’t been prepared to do this type of heavy lifting in the classroom, says Michael Hines, a historian of education and assistant professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE).
“There’s a challenge that teachers have to face about learning to be comfortable teaching uncomfortable topics,” says Hines. “That’s something we need to work on as educators, as parents, as students: being comfortable sitting in that place of discomfort. It’s a lot easier to open up a canned curriculum, have the answers right there and just be able to move on.”
On this episode of School’s In, Hines joins GSE Dean Dan Schwartz and Senior Lecturer Denise Pope to talk about the importance of a culturally inclusive curriculum where all children see themselves and their culture reflected in the narrative.
“We can’t cling to myths about America being a flawless country that’s always in the right—we have to be able to go beyond that and question that,” says Hines. “That’s what teaching histories of people who’ve been marginalized allows us to do: to challenge that myth of American exceptionalism that we’ve all grown up with.”
Talk early and honestly, Hines recommends to teachers and parents, about the complicated nature of American history. “There’s obviously only so far you can go with children before it’s not developmentally appropriate for their age,” he says. But even at a young age, “students are able to handle concepts that are more complicated than we give them credit for.”
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