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Monday, February 23, 2015

On The Teaching of History

There's a riot quietly ongoing around something called “Advanced Placement History”.
Folks on the Right want to revisit what is taught in schools about Our History.
This seems to involve a lot of Revision, and Omission of many things that really happened that they, for whatever reason, find uncomfortable.
The Rub seems to be fear....fear that if the Warts are included, that students will end up “hating America”. To prevent this, folks on the Right wish to scrub our History Books clean of all of the Bad Things that have been done in Our History; from the Genocide of them that were here, before the European Invasions, to the Myriad Perspectives around and through the Civil War, to Labor Struggles to the Sixties and their Ferment, to the Whole Story of the Cold War, and of Reagan's America.
It is an attempt to set in stone American Exceptionalism, by removing the icky parts...and the parts that disagree with their preferred Mythology.
While it is certainly not pleasant to contemplate that America made use of Smallpox Blankets and MK Ultra and Palmer Raids, these things are a Part of Our History.
They are a part of who We are.
To neglect attempt to hide them in the erase them from Our collective a disservice to Our youth.
Such Erasure is also quite dangerous.
How are We to Improve, if the only things we learn about Ourselves are the Good Parts...the Shiny determined by One Side...One Opinion?
If we leave out the Ugly... the Evil, even...are we not doomed to Repeat the same Mistakes and Shortcomings?
If we neglect the Dissenters, the Opposition, and those who have had Other Ideas, is this not a Skewed Version of Our History?
I have often been confronted with the Strawman Accusation...that I am a part of the “Blame America First Crowd”....
This is a product of that Totalising Worldview that insists that “We are Awesome!”...and that any Criticism...any Critique...cannot be countenanced.
As if Critique somehow undoes the Good Parts.
Negates them.
America is not Perfect...nor is it Complete.
It is a Work in Progress, forever Under Construction.
Discrimination is necessary in choosing Our materials for this ongoing Project.
Not just any board will do.
The rotten boards must be discarded.
This Discrimination can only be effectual if we look at the boards carefully; and for this, we must Open Our Eyes.
Our History, like it or not, contains many Failures, and many very Ugly and Festering Wounds...many, many Rotten Places, that we would do well to discard. Our children need the proper Tools, including their Eyes, to do this hard work of Discernment that is so Vital to the Ongoing Construction of Our Civilisation.
We do them a disservice by sugarcoating and whitewashing and obscuring the Rotten Parts, and by leaving out all those who Disagreed, who Dissented from the Preferred Version.
We should, instead, provide a Comprehensive Context to this thing...this America. Let us Teach the whole story of Us, and let the Individual make the determination for him or her self.
Many folks on the Right seem to wish to leave out large chunks of Our History regarding Thoughts and Ideas and Ideals that they simply do not Like.
From Jefferson's stance on Religion, the Progressive Movement, the Labor Movement,to the Presence in America of people who were different, in thought and deed and Idealism.
What this part of the preferred Revisionism seems to entail, is the excision of all things Liberal from Our collective Memory. The Revisionists insist that this is needed to counter “Liberal Indoctrination” if acknowledging the Other Side of the Story, teaching the Whole of History, is somehow a Political Act, or Plot. To this idea, I counter: if Your Version of Events is so Righteous and Proud, can it not withstand Criticism? Is it not “Indoctrination”, by definition, to Exclude the parts and persons of Our History that you do not care for, or that tarnish somewhat your preferred view that America is, and always has been, Perfect?
If Students learn the Other Side of the Story of Us, are you afraid that your Preferred Side will be found wanting?
True Exceptionalism should stand on it's own you fear that the Approved History cannot endure if the Truth...all sides of the Truth...were to be exposed?
Let us, instead, endeavor to shine the light on the Whole Story of Us;
Warts and rotten boards and festering swamps and all.
To scrub History clean of all that oppose your preferred worldview is is of the worst traditions of Totalitarianism...and it is, inherently, Unamerican.

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