In high school, we learned the basics. How pilgrims came to America, how states were formed, the Gettysburg Address and the Oregon Trail. We learned about American history throughout our lives. However. it took me until college to realize that what we learned wasn’t the full story. I decided to take a Filipinx cultural history class that focused on the history of Filipinx immigrants and their struggle within U.S. society. I grew up with immigrant parents and heard their stories about coming to America.
However, I never fully realized the struggle for Filipinx people until taking this class.
High school teaches you the successes that the U.S. has had to become the first world power they are today, but they don’t teach you what kind of things they had to do in order to be so successful. Colonization occurred all throughout the world, and with colonization created a loss of culture for those nations that fell victim, the Philippines being one of them. The U.S. made the Philippines their puppet, and their effects are still taking course today. You can see it through the westernization of cities, and the weak economy and infrastructure, as well as the number of overseas workers forced to work outside of their home country in order to provide for their families.
The many reasons why the Philippines is considered a third world country are because of the injustices the U.S. made during times of colonization, and decades after as well. The Philippines is not alone in this. You can see the same effects in nations like Guam, Puerto Rico, countries in Africa, and Cuba.
In high school, I knew I was learning about history, but I never felt it to be my own. I just read about a bunch of old white dudes passing laws and winning wars. I never learned about what kind of work my own people did to help this country. I didn’t learn about the kind of work other ethnicities did to help this country. We are known to be the melting pot of the world. People all around the globe come to the U.S. to live the “American Dream.”
But if we were so diverse, how come my curriculum wasn't?
Fast forward to this quarter, winter of my sophomore year in college, I decided to take this Filipinx History class in order for me to learn about my culture. I didn’t expect it to teach me things about myself as well. With every lecture, I could connect to each one of the stories. I felt the struggle as a Filipina student and hearing about other Filipinx people fighting for their culture in a place where assimilation was more accepted. I learned about the work that Filipinx people did creating worker unions, creating social change, and helping build a sense of community in a country that didn’t want them.
While in these classes, I wondered why I hadn’t learned about this before. Why was the history I was taught so whitewashed? I get that people of color are the minority within the U.S. However, the work they’ve done for the country was definitely important enough to learn in a high school classroom.
What I’m trying to get at is, as people of color, we need to reach out and learn more about ourselves. Learn the struggle of our people here in the U.S. Histories of colonization and assimilation should not stop us from understanding who we are as a race. For schools, I hope to see curriculum diversify. I should not have to teach myself about myself. Rather, I should have the opportunity to learn about people of color within the classroom.
What I learned while taking an ethnic studies course was that my people’s struggle for equality is no different than other ethnicities. We are all essentially fighting different battles in the same war. We all hope to have a larger voice within our college campuses, within the community, within the country. It is important for all of us to learn about each other’s histories in order to better understand each other. I also learned about who I was, and it made me want to fight harder for the representation of my people within society.
People of color cannot be easily dismissed. We have a voice, and it is growing louder and louder every day.
I want to live in a country where my kids are able to learn about their own histories and look up to historical figures as role models. I need them to learn about the people that kept our culture alive, and not about the ones who took it away.
Another school year is over, and there’s a good chance you haven’t been thanked for another year’s hard work. That might actually be quite an understatement. Not only may you have failed to receive real appreciation for your work, your salary and benefits may have been cut while your hours were increased. You may have had more students to teach and more requirements to fulfill. You may not even be sure you’ll be teaching next fall, depending upon budget cuts, even though you are a good and dedicated teacher.
It’s possible that you have had a few students thank you, tell you that something you taught them, did for them, helped them learn was important and meaningful and changed them and inspired them and meant the world to them. It’s also possible few students have taken the time to thank you, because they may be so stressed and frustrated by endless tests, long hours sitting in a chair learning things that don’t seem relevant and important to them, or by a couple of other teachers, administrators or fellow students who’ve demoralized, bullied, scared, or bored them to tears making them hate school despite all you have done.
So if you haven’t received the thanks you deserve, I want to thank you publicly now. And by “you” I mean those teachers who love to teach and do so with all their heart and soul to provide their students with what is important and necessary and inspiring and beautiful and meaningful and true and good and honest. I mean those teachers who care about kids and empower them and ignite their passions and help them achieve their big dreams. I mean those teachers who demand that their students question everything, including what they themselves teach, to ensure that they become the best critical and creative thinkers they can be. I mean those teachers who listen and care. I mean those teachers who are passionate about the subjects they teach and who cannot help but impart that passion.
I want to thank you for doing the most important work of all – educating the next generation. The real hope for our world, for creating peace, for solving our entrenched problems, for developing sustainable, humane, and healthy systems in technology, farming, economics, production, transportation, defense, and so on, lies with you – how well you provide your students with the knowledge, tools, and motivation they need to be able to create such systems. And you deserve extra gratitude for doing what you can to make your curricula serve such ends when standardized bubble tests demand something else entirely from you and often hinder the greater goals for a truly educated populace that you aspire to provide.
Thank you for being willing to work long hours for modest pay and minimal status when you surely could be making more money with less stress and greater prestige. Thank you for buying supplies when the school ran out of money and extending yourself far beyond your job description to help and mentor your students outside of the classroom. Thank you for trying to figure out every day how to manage the needs of so many children and for loving the ones who are hard to love because they make your days so difficult.
Thank you for modeling patience, honesty, courage, perseverance, wisdom, responsibility, generosity, and a commitment to lifelong learning to the best of your ability each and every day in your classroom.
Most of all, thank you for everything you have done and will continue to do to create a better future. There is no other profession that so directly shapes the world of tomorrow. Thank you for teaching.
Have a good summer.