Sue Clark: Learning the hard parts of history can inspire students to bring about change |

Sue Clark: Learning the hard parts of history can inspire students to bring about change

I completely agree with Timothy May (Other Voices, June 16) that students appreciate knowing things they were never taught before. They don’t want to just read a book; they like context and history. Acquisition of new ideas: Isn’t this why we teach?

When we read Shakespeare’s “Othello,” we also study racism in Renaissance England. When students read the play, “The Crucible,” they need to know that it was based on the author’s experience with the McCarthy hearings and his being blacklisted.

When I was in high school many decades ago, I’d never heard about the Tulsa massacre, Jim Crow laws, or Japanese internment camps, to name a few. Though it was going on at the time, the Vietnam War was not discussed in my classes.

I learned about much more about these subjects as a seasoned teacher these last few years. When I teach novels, I learn along with my students.

The Nevada County Reads Book of the Year a few years ago was called “Just Mercy.” It’s one of my students’ favorite books, and it describes the high incarceration rates of the vulnerable and poor, and how this author has devoted his life to helping them. Jim Crow laws are referenced throughout the book. Some students and I had never heard of them before.

I don’t hate America, and teaching these subjects to students does not cause them to scorn our country. They are learning about complicated and sometimes divisive situations where they get to form their own opinion.

My goal is for them to look at things where we can do better as a country, and go out and make needed changes. Thanks, Tim, for your observations.

Sue Clark

Grass Valley

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