Let’s face it: The way United States history is taught isn’t inclusive. Our public education system barely touches on the history of minority groups that do not fit into the white, cisgender, heterosexual establishment.
This means that many students come to UT with a one-sided understanding of U.S. history.
In order to combat the inclusivity issues that arise from this gap in students’ K-12 education, UT should require one of the two core history credits students must complete to come from a class that focuses on the history of a marginalized group in this country.
“The faculty could change the competencies to require that all Core history courses include a focus on marginalized and underrepresented populations,” Hillary Procknow, director of the School of Undergraduate Studies, said in an email. “But this would be difficult to do and might not have the desired impact, since approximately 65% of Core history courses taken by UT students are transferred in from other institutions.”
While it may be difficult, this doesn’t mean that our core history requirements at UT cannot be modified to be more inclusive of U.S. history in its totality.
UT already has a variety of courses that focus on underrepresented communities in the U.S., including Introduction To Asian American History, Native American Women’s History, History of Black Entrepreneurship in the U.S. and The Black Power Movement.
“Making non-history majors take a history class specifically about the struggles of different minority groups in the U.S. wouldn’t be a bad idea,” said government and history senior Jenny Matthews. “Especially given the discrimination and bigotry those groups still face to this day.”
Despite their wide availability, Matthews doesn’t see her peers take the initiative upon themselves to seek out these more inclusive history classes.
“There are absolutely some classes which show (why inclusive history is important),” Matthews said. “But in my experience, those classes tend to be upper-division, and most people try to knock out their flags as early in their degree as possible.”
Therefore, diversifying the history core requirement isn’t about availability, but rather about incentivizing students to take advantage of available courses.
One argument against this measure is that the cultural diversity flag already takes care of inclusivity issues in core history. However, the cultural diversity flag isn’t exclusive to history requirements — many visual and performing arts courses and humanities courses can fulfill the cultural diversity flag. Just because someone is educated on the art or literature of a group doesn’t mean they have a comprehensive understanding of that group’s history in this country.
Another argument is that this requirement would be difficult to implement for students who come to UT with history credits from other universities or AP/IB credit, as Procknow explained above. However, students can only claim one of the two history core credits from testing credit, which means they should have room in their schedules to take a more inclusive history course in residence.
For the students who come in with credits from other universities, UT can utilize its petitions system to determine if the course a student took fulfills the new history requirement, just as they would for any other course.
UT prides itself on ensuring that its students receive a first-class education, but there’s still much to be done. I’m a Black and Latina woman, and there are facets of my own history that I wasn’t aware of until I took a class on Black Power this semester.
All students, regardless of one’s identity, can benefit from engaging in a more nuanced and multifaceted study of American history. UT should work to revise core history requirements in order to make sure that students leave the Forty Acres with improved historical understanding.
Roland is a radio-television-film freshman from Houston, Texas.