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How Theater Can Offer Students New Perspectives On History

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 ( Flickr/Max Wolfe)

Teachers work hard to help students understand the crucial role of perspective in shaping historical narratives. And yet for the sake of time and convenience, history textbooks often flatten the narratives, excluding events and upholding a Euro-centric narrative of what constitutes "history." Teachers are coming up with amazing ways around this problem from integrating video games as social studies texts, to creating their own open educational resources. Some teachers are even using theater to help kids access the untold histories of minority groups that often get overlooked in the dominant narratives.

In her article for The Atlantic, Audrey Cleo Yap discusses recent controversies over how some approved textbooks portray Mexican-Americans or characterize Indian culture. Researchers have found that when students feel a text stereotypes minority experiences, they are less likely to trust its validity and by extension distrust the class, teacher and subject. Several theater programs hope to offset those effects by diving deeply into the experiences of minority communities in the U.S., as Cleo Yap reports:

"Theater, then, has become one avenue through which non-profit groups in California—a state with a 62 percent minority population and one of the most diverse make-ups in the country—ensure students learn about minorities in U.S. history, both past and present. The ramification of pushing a white-dominant historical narrative, argues EWP’s Tokuda, is erasure of minority voices: 'The consequences are that no one will care, and we become invisible again.' "


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