Giving context to history textbooks

By Michelle Knight

It’s difficult to distinguish Angelica Chavez from her students at Adolfo Camarillo High School. A little more than a decade ago, the 29-year-old U.S. history teacher was sitting in their seats.

Chavez didn’t like history then. She felt, like many critics of traditional history books, that U.S. history is told solely from the perspective of the controlling class. Many students find history boring because it presents a one-sided narrative, Chavez said.

“You knew America was going to win,” she said. “We could do no wrong, ever.”

Chavez came to appreciate history in college after reading about events and people traditional textbooks ignore, such as women, people of color and social movements.

“History spoke more to me,” Chavez said on a recent Thursday morning between classes.

Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” was one of the books that impressed her.