California Educator

December/January 2021

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" We are always telling our students to do what's right and be truthful," Don Dumas says. "We must do the same when teaching about America's past, so students can better understand the present." Howard Dumas O N D U M A S W A S teaching students about racism long before there was a Black Lives Matter movement and unprecedented nation- wide protests demanding social justice. For the past decade, he has helped students explore how racism is woven throughout America's entire history — and how painful events of the past continue to shape our world. Teaching through a social justice lens made Dumas one of five 2019-20 San Diego County Teachers of the Year. Sweetwater Education Association President Julie Walker describes the SEA member as a "teacher leader " who encourages col- leagues to go beyond the textbook. " Textbooks are not designed to tell us the truth about what happened in the past," says Dumas, a teacher at Bonita Vista High School in Chula Vista. " Textbooks are designed to make us feel nostalgia for an American past that hasn't existed for everyone, although it may have existed for some." Books such as The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist and Race and Manifest Destiny by Reginald Horsman are used in his classes to "fill in the gaps" in state-adopted textbooks. Students learn, for example, that the main reason for the Mexican-American War was not a border dispute or to avenge the killing of 16 American soldiers, as students have been traditionally taught. Instead, the U.S. wanted to expand its cotton empire and slave power, says Dumas. As for the Civil War, students learn that Abraham Lincoln espoused white supremacist views as a congressman running for Senate, and that slaves played an enormous role in freeing themselves. "I want students to understand that slaves played the biggest roles in grabbing their freedom, and that my students, too, have the power to shape their environment. I want them to know they can make things happen, like other people have done throughout history. That's why I teach the way I do." "He changed my view on almost everything I knew about historical Putting History Into Context Don Dumas goes beyond textbooks to teach the truth about America's past D Don Dumas CHAPTER Sweetwater Education Association POSITION AP History teacher 18 the Innovation Issue

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