On Tuesday, Feb. 16, the Diversity Student Leaders Society, part of the College of Communication and Information, hosted a conversation with panelists about the U.S. educational system and the history of different cultures entitled "History Swept Under the Rug."
The guest panel featured Mike Martinez, Cassie Ray, Amadou Sall and Deborah and Billy Phillips, who all spoke about their experiences with the education system in terms of cultural representation.
The event began with a Kahoot game where participants could answer questions covering little-known historical facts about contributions from people of color, such as who the first African American pilot was.
Brandon Turner, a member of the Diversity Student Leaders Society, moderated the discussion and the questions that were asked of the panelists through the chat.
First, the discussion began with a conversation about multi-cultural representation in school and teaching history, where the panelists shared their experiences.
Amadou Sall is an Africana Studies professor at UT. He spoke about his experiences with education growing up, including the lack of representation in school.
“African history is not taught in elementary school, high school, and even at universities, and it is changing now, but then, it was not there,” Sall said.
Cassie Ray is half Taiwanese and half white, and as an Asian-American, she, too, struggled to find teachings in school about her culture growing up. She shared her thoughts about the need for more representation.
“I don’t feel like it’s doing anyone any favors to not teach this stuff and have a multicultural curriculum,” Ray said.
“Anything that I’ve learned about Asian American history … is self-taught, just from my own interest and research and discovering that through being curious.”
Mike Martinez is a journalism and electronic media professor at UT and is of both Hispanic and Latino descent. Martinez also struggled with representation growing up.
“I learned most of what I know about the Hispanic and Latin culture through relatives and through self-exploration, wanting to know about my culture and where I come from,” Martinez said.
Then, the conversation moved to a discussion about assimilation in the American school system and how this can be harmful to children and their relationships with their culture, stemming from a lack of education about their own culture.
Deborah and Billy Phillips, who share Native American culture, discussed their experiences of assimilating into schools as kids.
“I didn’t want to speak English at all — my language was easier to speak, and I was more fluent,” Phillips said.
The panelists also shared examples of cultural events that they enjoy as ways to reconnect with their culture, such as harvest powwows, Lunar New Year and Día de los Muertos celebrations, as well as birth celebrations.
Alice Wirth, director of CCI Diversity Student Leaders Society and professor at UT, gave final remarks about the importance of educating students from the beginning of their learning journey.
“That child going in and moving through those grades will have an appreciation for who they are … that foundation of contribution is a must,” Wirth said.