The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes
Sunday, April 25, 2004
US schools history teaching on the Three Wise Monkeys principle
The impeccably liberal LA Times carries an excellent, if depressing, piece against interest (April 23) on the sanitised version of US history that is de rigueur these days in American schools.
A cursory glance round here will confirm my infatuation with the subject. I mentioned on March 1 a study which found US history textbooks almost universally depressing, where not factually inaccurate - mostly in the cause of minimising the possible offence to the grievance-minded.
The Times piece, by NYU history/ed prof Jonathan Zimmerman, starts with the guy telling his class about the 1963 March on Washington, and being asked about Martin Luther King's adultery, J Edgar Hoover's bugging hotel rooms, etc. What sounds like a highly satisfactory classroom discussion took place.
The next day, I received a call from an irate African American parent. "My daughter's feeling very upset," the parent said. "You've taken away her hero, her role model." Several other black parents called the principal, who summoned me to his office for a stern warning: Stick to the textbook, or else.
It's defensive school administration, as so often noted here.
The piece blames the Brown case - which dragged in the damage to self-esteem inherent in segregated education to justify ruling that such segregation was per se unequal.
With self-esteem raised to be a totem, by and by, every grievance-group had to have its plaster saints: cheap, worthless and bearing no relation to reality.
Whereas, of course, the interest of history to most students will lie almost entirely in the disreputable, if not downright evil, men and deeds that crowd its pages.
We rightly castigate politicians and the media for distortions and manipulations of fact: misleading the young in schools in surely as reprehensible, if not more so. Apart from being boring, the ultimate teen sin.
(Would, for example, that archetypal Bad Nigger Jack Johnson - lately namechecked in relation to the Seaborn Roddenbery (not Roddenberry) miscegenation amendment (March 9) - be allowed to be discussed in class, for all his considerable historical significance? Joe Louis  would be much safer...)
[Link via Joanne Jacobs, font of ed-lunacy.]
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