While American studies courses are not required at Cal State Fullerton, they are more necessary and important than those who have not taken them might think.
Looking back at American history through the lens of Black, Indigenous and other persons of color rather than solely accepting the overused white-washed version is vital to learning the truth behind our country and how our society still upholds racism, the patriarchy and white supremacy.
According to Cal State Fullerton’s website, American studies allows students to gain a deeper understanding of America’s past and present, as well as the cultural differences between races, genders and regions in the United States.
As dutiful taxpayers and voters, we are creators of change, and we need to start learning to think analytically and systematically about American structures and institutions that were originally put in place to serve the rich and the white. We need to start thinking about how representation of various cultural groups in art, literature and popular culture affects our thoughts and opinions regarding those around us. That being said, American studies courses are a great place to start while students are still in college and are able to take such courses.
According to Boston University, acquiring jobs with a background in American studies offers former students the appropriate and adequate knowledge of the politics and relations within the country. Whether working as a lawyer, journalist or filmmaker, those who take courses in American studies are able to gain unique insights within their cultural environment and make more politically conscious decisions.
Many college students learn everything they can about the specific field they want to enter after graduation. They mainly take specialized classes that prepare them for careers in their desired area of study, but they learn nothing about the country and society they live in. Students don’t get to learn about the American class system, the disparities in wealth by race and ethnicity, the reasons why low-income communities are predominantly filled with BIPOC or why Black and Brown communities are more susceptible to the school-to-prison pipeline.
If those students later become policy-makers, lawyers or find themselves in any position that creates change in this country, it’s important for them to know the truth and the real history behind America. Regardless, they are ultimately taxpayers and voters, and they have the power to incite real change with their votes. However, those votes can’t make change for the better if they don’t know what to look for in public policy or voting propositions.
The K-12 school system teaches American propaganda that uplifts white supremacy and disguises our bloody and painful history. They subtly brush over America’s atrocious past and white-washing history. When students are taught about Spanish missionaries and Native Americans, they conveniently leave out the violence, bloodshed and forced labor. If we don’t know our history and the modern implications it has created for marginalized communities, we are bound to repeat it.
Additionally, each course provides a different perspective of American culture and teaches students how historical events, people and institutions play a role in the shaping of our nation. It’s important to acknowledge this history because it has a direct impact on our society today as it shapes our beliefs, values, and interactions with one another. Learning how American structures and institutions influence our point of view, will allow us to reevaluate our own preconceived notions about society and culture. It will teach us to be cautious and analytical when dealing with the immense diversity in American culture, past and present.