On Friday November 13th, Katie, myself, and a few other DU Law students, went to Manual High School to watch a presentation from an American Literature class about re-writing the American Literature curriculum.
The project began when students learned that 83% of authors assigned in American Literature are white and only 22% of authors assigned are female. The students also discovered that a large amount of their classmates surveyed had never read a book cover to cover and did not enjoy reading. These facts led the students to decide the American Literature curriculum needs to change and begin encompassing the many races and cultures that make up America, besides just white folks. The students named the project, "Our Nation, Our Narrative."
Rather than engage in protests, the students wanted to start a dialogue about their concerns and share their ideas with people involved in the education field. So the students invited administrators from different universities, organizers from education groups, and other people from the field to come and listen to their speeches, stories, and proposals for change. In their speeches, the students often referred to their own personal experiences with racial inequities and stereotypes, emphasizing how the issue was personal to them.
These speeches illustrated why it was damaging to continue to advance an American Literature curriculum that was in fact, un-American. The students called for a change in curriculum that incorporated more African American and Latino authors as well as more stories about African American and Latino characters that were complex, real, and more than just stereotypes, The students knew they had a right to read about and learn from people who looked like them, rather than feel isolated in their own classrooms. Students also emphasized that changing the curriculum would benefit all students by teaching the many complex histories and stories of people from diverse backgrounds, rather than just relying on stereotypes, which only tell a single story. This idea was highlighted in my favorite quote of the day, a simple but powerful message spoken by a student during her speech--"Change starts with education."
The presentation was an inspiring showcase of students taking their education and the realities of the world into their own hands and demanding better. It strengthened my belief that students are a powerful source to create positive social change in schools and communities. I hope more people will begin to listen to students like those at Manual High School who are creatively, intelligently, and diligently calling for a change.
Posted by Haley DiRenzo