I taught World History at the High School level at the beginning of this school year. The book I taught out of was organized in a lovely way: Each segment on each culture–from Ancient times to present–told the story of what each culture brought to the world. I made sure to emphasize the things, spending one whole day (about 1.5 hours) simply talking about what a given culture had brought to the world.
I am not sure of my students’ reactions, but even my own were surprising. Prior to getting into that textbook and doing my own research, I didn’t even know all the things any given culture brought to the world.
It’s on days like these that I think teaching any subject (and education in general) is of the utmost importance. Mark Twain famously indicated that travel is harmful to biases, but not everyone can travel. Everyone in the United States, however, is able to go to High School where they can shatter stereotypes, negative thinking about another culture or group and grow to be whole, decent, upstanding people who fight for equality and see the value in others.
Some people may fall through the cracks, but we can typically fight hatred and violence through simple, quality education.
Here’s to teachers around the country. Your job is, indeed, of the utmost importance. You have the power to vanquish harmful stereotypes and negative thinking about other cultures and groups.