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Can history keep us from repeating our mistakes?

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Can history keep us from repeating our mistakes?

     She lived life with her family like any other American citizen until one day she was abruptly forced from home. After leaving everything except what could fit in her hands, sleeping on piles of hay in a horse stall at the Santa Anita racetrack, and being put onto a bus with blacked out windows without a clue where she was going, she hoped the nightmare would soon be over. However, it was only beginning. As sand blew into the rooms of their internment camp in Poston, Arizona, Lillie Torigoe, her four siblings, and her mother didn’t know what to expect next.

     That was the story Darlene Bagshaw, Stockton Buddhist Temple Board President, heard from her mother about her experience in the internment camps set up for Japanese-American citizens after the bombing of Pearl Harbor at the beginning of World War II. Though her mother was only a junior high student at the time, she witnessed horrors that no person of any age should be forced to see.

     Yet, this story is rarely taught in schools. The history of internment camps is at best a day’s lesson in the dense chapter on World War II. Whether it is African-Americans being suppressed from voting by being forced to take a literacy test or Mexican-Americans being deported just because of their race during the Mexican repatriation, moments like these are not heavily focused on in the curriculum.

     Roberto Torres, a senior, said that many historical moments are not given the focus they deserve, especially those involving America’s injustice against ethnic minority groups. He sees problems from the past still influencing today’s society.

     “There were injustices against minority groups in the past, so much that they still linger on in today’s youth as there are people raising their kids to have the same awful values as those in times of slavery and segregation,” Torres said. “There are too many educated people in our country for issues to be glossed over and go without resolution.”

     James Marrone, Social Studies Department Chair, said that studying history can help students see patterns. Especially with current issues, he can only hope that his students are able to use the past as a tool to make educated choices and make the country a “more perfect union” for all citizens. However, in order to use the past as a tool, they must have a good understanding of it, which involves knowing the unjust treatment of certain ethnic groups.

     “I hope students do see those patterns because then it allows them to solve some of the social ills,” Marrone said. “So if you’re going over the civil rights movement, you see what people went through so you can appreciate and understand why rights are so important.”

     Though Marrone understands that many parts in history are important, not every single one can be covered in a school year. However, a good teacher will find a way to fit those smaller parts into the big moments.

     “For different teachers there are going to be different areas of expertise on knowledge and they might teach it differently but we’re still all tied to standards and usually the standards focus on the bigger topics that you can elaborate on with little topics.”

     Khalisha Perkins, a senior, believes that not being able to cover every moment of history is not the teacher’s fault. Rather, the fault should be placed on those who write the books and fail to cover topics in depth even if it puts America in a more negative light.

     “I think maybe the government and the people who write the books are biased and they try to cover up horrible moments by not going into detail of what happened.”

     While bad, all parts of history are important to understand and the topics should have been covered more in depth in a classroom, she said. Students need a good understanding of the past and can do so by just having a bigger interest in the subject.

     “The way our country is right now I feel like if we had been paying attention to the mistakes we’ve made before we wouldn’t let it happen again. I don’t feel like we as a country pay enough attention to our past and you can’t just forget it.”



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Can history keep us from repeating our mistakes?