In light of the Black Lives Matter movement, I would like to point out something unsettling in the core curriculum at Gonzaga. GU’s history requirement focuses on survey classes from a white male perspective which perpetuates the systemic racism that infiltrates every part of our society. 

The history requirement should be expanded to include specific topics that focus on race, ethnicity and women’s studies either within those core classes or through another focused class. 

On GU’s webpage for the degree requirements for the history core requirement, it states “history courses are intended to develop students’ awareness of the historical context of both the individual and the collective human experience. One course in History (HIST 101, HIST 102, HIST 112, HIST 201, HIST 202) will fulfill this requirement.” 

These classes are Western Civilization I & II, World Civilization 1500 to the present, and U.S. History I & II respectively. On the surface, having five classes to choose from might seem like ample choice for a basic undergraduate core requirement but upon further inspection, this is a Eurocentric, U.S. centric history requirement. 

While World Civilization might give a general survey look at the 1500s to the present, the post-colonial era and some parts of the core requirement pages include an intro to Native American studies class, it doesn’t feel as inclusive as it could be. Some students only have time to take one history class and will end up with the same story of white men in power.

When I tried to transfer a class I planned to take abroad, The History and Human Rights in Argentina, to GU, I was told that it could only transfer as an upper-division history class. A white history satisfies the lower division requirement but not the history of Black, Indigenous, or people of color’s (BIPoC) history. 

We are prioritizing a knowledge of U.S. history that most students are already pretty familiar with given that U.S. history is usually covered several times throughout K-12 education. It is redundant and not “developing students’ awareness of the … human experience.” 

Furthermore, tacking on the Civil Rights Movement to the end of U.S. History II is not enough anymore. Black people have a deeper history than just Martin Luther King Jr. and the Voting Rights Act. Yes, these are huge and should not be overlooked, but we are deleting the rest of Black history. 

Black history should not have to be a special separate history course to be taken on your own time. It looks like GU has many BIPoC history courses that sound amazing, but most students will never take them because they aren’t required. 

Black History is part of U.S. history and should be thoroughly integrated into the class rather than focusing yet again on white history, and if you refuse to integrate them then why is there no racial, ethnic, or women’s studies class requirement?

There is a problem when the only two narratives about Black history are slavery and Civil Rights. We need to refocus the lens of these history classes on stories of minority power because everyone knows, history repeats itself when you don’t learn it. 

As a woman with Mexican heritage, I can tell you the Chicano/a movement has never been covered in my history classes. The Mexican immigrant stories are not recounted. My heritage is erased from the textbooks. 

I can only imagine what it would feel like to be depicted over and over again as a slave, as a dangerous member of society, as less than, when learning about the history of your own country. Our GU Jesuit mission calls us to become “women and men for a more just and humane global community” but we are not giving students examples of justice in history. 

We are learning the history of the subjugators and oppressors. Excluding Black and minority stories out of the core requirements at GU is an example of systemic racism. When we are focusing on the story of the colonizer and not the colonized, we are upholding the system that has silenced these people for years. 

The Black Lives Matter Movement is the response to a system that continues to oppress BIPoC and if we don’t educate ourselves on how this happened, it will not stop. We point to education as the answer to everything and yet here is an example of education failing us. It is time to rise up, Black history matters, Black Lives Matter.

 

Angela George is a junior studying computer science and computational thinking. 

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(2) comments

Ann Ostendorf

Please join one of the United States History core courses Angela! You would see that none of these courses are taught "from the white male perspective" nor do they "perpetuate the systemic racism that infiltrates every part of our society." Had you taken one of these courses, or spoken to one the professors who teach them for your article, you would have learned that these courses would give you exactly what you are after, that is courses that focus on "race, ethnicity and women's studies". Nearly half of the history department faculty have area expertise (meaning we research, publish, and teach on these topics) related to constructions of race, experiences of racialization, and the dismantling of systems of racialilized injustice. We invite anyone interest in learning about these topics to reach out to a member of our department to learn more about which class would give you the education you are after.

Rob Donnelly

Gonzaga’s History Department has been, in fact, engaged in the conversations you seek, Angela, and I believe that if you enroll in one of the courses you list above, you will find them to be much more balanced than you think. In my US History course (HIST 202), for example, I include in lecture, discussion, readings, and assignments the voices and experiences of Native Americans, Black Americans, women, immigrants, and other groups during Reconstruction, through the Progressive Era and in war, during the Great Depression, and on to more recent times, and not just during the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s. I commend you for taking the time to examine the University Core Curriculum, and I truly hope that you will continue to discuss racism and social justice with your student colleagues and with your professors.

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