As teachers of History, we are constantly devalued. Students ask why they must take our courses, administrators take our class time for assemblies or testing, states push the teaching of everything but History, and in comparison to requirements in other subject areas, we are left behind. In some schools, the Social Studies Department does not receive equal funding, do not have access to texts or other up-to-date resources, and are tasked with teaching or reinforcing other content areas at the cost of reducing their own content. It's a fact across our country.
Just last week, I went to visit one of my most favorite destinations: Washington, D.C. There is just something about being in our nation's capital and standing in the middle of the mall with all the workings and history of our nation going on all around me. And each time I visit, I start my day at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. I enjoy walking through America's past, seeing the changes in transportation, politics, and yes, even the dresses worn by the first ladies!
But this trip had a different outcome than most. Instead of my leaving rejuvenated and excited about being a teacher of American History, I left disappointed and saddened in the state of affairs. I felt discouraged. I felt angry. And right there outside the museum doors, I had a little breakdown, sharing with my husband all of my fears for the future generations of America.
As we entered the museum and took a turn toward the right side of the museum, I saw that things had changed. The first evidence was the sign up for "Employees Only" where the Transportation Hall had once been. So, as we turned to enter the new exhibit area, the evidence only continued to build; every bit supporting the fact that even our own nation's history is no longer valued in this country. What had once been the greatest holding of America's artifacts was a condensed menagerie of decade highlights. To subsidize the missing materials were opportunities to investigate further on the provided technology. And then, at seeing the barren lunch counter, with no explanation, images, or further display materials to support its significance, I turned toward the exit.
On my way out of the building, I stopped to ask an employee if things were just being renovated. Sadly, the answer was no! Then followed what sounded like a rehearsed speech about a lack of funding and a shift toward the use of technology to record our past. Sad.
Back outside, I turned south, headed to my next destination. There, maybe the lessons will be remembered... This time.
Lest we forget...