When I was in 10th grade, we learned about the 1950s in America, and I found it odd that our textbook devoted an entire page to the history of early TV shows, but only two sentences to the creation of the interstate highway system.
As someone who works in media, I understand and appreciate the impact television has had on America, and I don't fault the book for mentioning this. However, as a car person, I think the text (and the class, for that matter) made a huge mistake in glossing over the creation of the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. The resulting effects on travel and commerce has changed the nation equally if not more so than television. At that point, I realized we didn't overlook just the highway system, but almost all of our nation's automotive history.
Along with culture are valuable lessons about leadership and business. We idolize tech giants like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg, but back in the day, Alfred P. Sloan, George Romney, and Lee Iacocca were the type of people who used to grace the cover of TIME Magazine (multiple times):
(all images courtesy of http://content.time.com/time/coversearch/)
There is equal value in learning about the successes and the failures of car companies; perhaps not in history classes, but marketing and PR courses. The stories of strikes and strike breakers, of Ralph Nader and the Corvair, of the Pinto and its exploding gas tank, of Toyotas and "unintended acceleration," of fuel shortages and gas lines, and of so many other things all provide valuable lessons.
Today, look at the history being made in terms of diversity. Incredibly talented people like Dodge's Ralph Giles, GM's Mary Barra, and Ford's Raj Nair are making history in what once was a field dominated by white males. If we shared their stories in schools, we could encourage a whole new generation of kids to pursue careers in the automotive world.
These ideas are only the tip of the iceberg. I haven't even started on energy, pollution, and government regulation. Considering how many subjects I've already touched on, there's now way you could cram them into a 10th grade history class. You could probably spend an entire college semester studying automotive history and still leave a lot out.
But my point is this—this history of cars in America is important. Few industries have impacted so many parts of our daily life for so many years. Therefore, I think textbooks should mention more than just Henry Ford. There is certainly value in teaching our children the history of our nation's automobiles; after all, soon they'll be the ones designing, building, buying, and driving them.