I found this week’s discussions and the sources we looked at very compelling, and they seemed very indicative of how society viewed the issue of slavery hundreds of years ago, and the mindsets of the people who created those sources. The chapters in Schermerhorn’s book seemed to expose a lot of the explicit details of what happened when slavery was integrated into America and how poorly the enslaved people were treated. However, what I actually found more interesting has to do with the observations from my fellow classmates. When reading through the chapters and viewing the in class resources, most of the thoughts that went through my head were “well duh those awful things happened, I already learned this in high school.” This seems to be a lot different from what the other members of this class were experiencing, which sounded something like “I had no idea this happened, I never learned this, that’s awful!” I would be interested in researching what proportions of students have actually learned about the extent of how awful slavery was, how widespread it truly was, and the amount of impact it truly had on society, the economy, etc. I would try to see if there are any correlations that could be leading to these discrepancies of exposure to the true horrors and impact of slavery, such as curriculum differences between states, public vs private schools, differences in the race and gender makeup of the students and/or teachers, and more.
Admittedly, I have not seen any research on this type of thing before myself, but I would imagine someone has had this idea before. Nevertheless, if I were conducting my own research, I would start by attempting to obtain the curriculums of history classes in various states in the USA, and attempt to examine the differences between those states, what concepts are taught at what grade level, and more. I would also poll students that are finishing high school/starting college to see how much they know, in case there is a disconnect between what is in the curriculum and what is actually being taught. I would then break these students down into groupings by what state they grew up in, what kind of school they went to, and what kind of teachers they had (I would attempt to get data on the teachers as well, but I have a feeling that would violate some sort of privacy law that a teachers’ union would protect against). I would likely have the students fill out electronic forms with multiple choice questions so it is easier to categorize their answers and then analyze percentages of each response.
The APUSH and New York State history curriculums are available online, but it would be difficult to get data on every student and teacher that would be taken in the sample. The next steps would be to identify where the disconnect is located in terms of why students are not learning this material by at least high school, whether it be at the administrative level with curriculum, the teacher’s level in not reinforcing the curriculum, or the students just not paying attention, and then advise them to adjust accordingly. Students should be taught about everything that has occurred in the history of our nation, both the good and the bad and everything in between, and as it stands right now, not enough of them know the truth. We need to identify the source of why this is and fix it.