Diversity coming to history everywhere
July 29, 2008
New interpretive material at the Park City Museum will include a sign depicting Native Americans in Park City, even though very few ever established residence here.
Johanna Fassbender, director of education at the museum, said that research indicated that American museum goers have simply come to expect Native American history in their museums. Even though the history of Park City can’t necessarily facilitate that desire, the museum still sees their curiousity as an opportunity to instruct.
Diversity in history and the teaching of social studies, has become a major issue in the last few years and currently in California some five bills from the state legislature are targeting social studies curriculum. These bills all seek to introduce multi-ethnic approaches to history.
The Utah State Board of Eduation will launch its own changes to their social studies core curriculum as it hits the Internet for the fall semester. But, said Tom Sutton, social studies specialist, the content of the core curriculum has changed little. It will just be more accessible to teachers and students via the Web.
Utah, said Sutton, has a solid track record of integrating minority studies into the history curriculum. The Coalition of Minority Advisors Committee, has overseen changes to curriculum in the hopes of ensuring that any changes made reflect the diversity of the state.
Diversity can be a difficult issue because much of the history of this state was penned white men said Fassbender. All the same, said Sutton’s predecessor, Robert Austin, a substantial history in the state and territory was carved by African-Americans, Chinese and other immigrants.
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The fourth-grade curriculum engages most students in the history of Utah and exposes them not only to those ethnicities, but also to the thousands of years of Native American history in the area. The State Board of Education even employs a Native American, Chuck Foster, for quality assurance purposes in the instruction of Native American history.
Austin also said that increased diversity in Utah will escalate the importance of multi-racial history.
The Park City Museum already has plans to take advantage of that same diversity. Fassbender said that, aside from the Native American materials, guests to the museum will also be exposed to immigrant groups that made a living in Park City. Furthermore, she intends to continue an oral history project by interviewing Latino young people in the area. More than just involve these children in the museum, these recordings could offer a glimpse in the modern-day ethnic and immigrant experience.
Austin said that the goal of increasing diversity in historical curriculum is always "to make sure that every child sees their own story reflected." But, said Fassbender, the goal is also to tell the whole story and that always goes beyond the standard histories.