History curriculum accentuates fissures between US and Territories

by Jun 15, 2022History, Opinion0 comments

Sensationalist tales of liberty and freedom dominate the storied past of the United States. From Washington’s voyage across the Delaware River to the triumphant victory over communism, the American narrative chronicles the successes of seemingly pious white men. However, the historical blemishes on American exceptionalism are selectively ignored in schools or institutionally outlawed by governments. 

A poll by the Morning Consult revealed that only “only 37 percent of people ages 18 to 29 know people born in Puerto Rico are citizens.” The Spanish-American War, partially fueled by imperialism and the desire to civilize savagery, has been swept under the rug as citizens memorialize Midway and Okinawa. An alarming wave of ignorance pervades the American homeland, exacerbating the insularity of the nation’s territories. 

Ramon Emeterio Betances, a selfless doctor and staunch abolitionist may be a name you have not heard before. His pleas for emancipation coincided with those of Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, yet Betances is absent from nearly all history books. The detention of Puerto Ricans at Carlisle Indian School also remains untold, as officials aimed to “kill the Boricua and save the man.” 

While American youth universally recite Columbus’ expedition to the Americas, Magellan’s subsequent conquest of Guam is hardly recognized. The native Chamorro population was ravaged by European disease and brutal oppression—much like the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere—yet their stories are not recounted alongside those of the Cherokee, Kiowa, or Cheyenne. 

In 1899, Anglo-American forces turned the Samoan people against one another as they aimed to overtake the archipelago against the Germans. Described as “deliberate murder” by Australian Cardinal Patrick Moran, Samoan villages were ruthlessly bombarded while America aimed to satisfy its imperialist appetite. 

There is a gaping hole in the standardized US History curriculum. After all, inhabitants of US territories are Americans: why are their stories flagrantly disregarded in classrooms across the country? 

Mainland Americans initiate the territories’ stories upon their conquest, not the profound confluence of subjugation and resilience that define their true origins. As students across the territories absorb exceptionalist tellings of American history, their mainland counterparts reflect upon the past through a narrow, strictly continental lens. This “America-first” mentality cultivated in schools is the root cause underlying territorial neglect. 

Thus, the only method to rectify systemic injustice is through enhanced educational mandates. Citizens must recognize their moral responsibility to learn about all American forefathers, regardless of creed, race, or sex. Until this hope is realized, territorial ambitions will remain subdued under the embers of hatred and bigotry.