Why Can’t We Teach History Based On What Happened In The Past?

When the 1619 Project was released by the New York Times, it was seen as a revolutionary look at the origins of slavery and its deeper impact to the founding of the United States of America than many people realize.

It also raised concerns across the same United States of America about how the history of slavery and Black people is being taught.

There were initial calls for public school districts to not use lesson plans based on the publishing of the 1619 Project even though those lesson plans do not exist.

This has been transformed into legislation to limit and outright ban teaching of critical race theory in public schools, which is loosely defined as the retelling of historical facts and events in a light that places undue stress and pain on White students today as they learn about the not-so-nice facts about the actions of White people of days long gone by against other races (mostly Blacks, but many Indigenous cultures are studied as well).

This is a better definition of the problem, but still not a problem, as there is not a widespread curriculum on critical race theory apart from Graduate and Juris Doctorate level study.

To make matters worse, the people calling for less talk on race-based history are doing a horrible job of explaining themselves by consistently putting their feet in their mouths. Saying things out loud and in public about Native America not putting much work into the land while White culture performed miracles (said a former United States Senator), hailing the merits of the Three-Fifths Compromise as a pollical poison pill that would eventually kill slavery (a least to members of State legislatures that I’ve seen reported), and a Black Republican Gubernatorial candidate with an official campaign issue to eliminate critical race theory from the public school curriculum of his state, which previously stated, does not exist.

To be fair to the third example, my initial source for his argument was a television interview that quickly turned into an argument with a liberal Black journalist. The journalist got kudos from his echo chamber, but it was not a good look for either party from a broader angled view.

I worked with a young lady whose birthday falls around Columbus Day. Everyone remembers being taught in First Grade that, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Then in the Eighth Grade, teachers admit that Columbus was lost and had no idea where he was when he arrived on the land of the Americas.

In the Tenth Grade, a discussion of Columbus Day being a week away came up in her World History Class, which she half-jokingly asked if they could use it as an excuse to throw her a birthday party. The teacher informed her there was no need to celebrate a murderer and rapist who got famous for not knowing how to follow a map, and without missing a beat, she asked, “But can we still have a party for my birthday?”

The point of that diversion is that we oversimply and sugar coat so much history for children to learn that when they are young adults and ready to comprehend the nuances of how it really happened. Old folks who do not want any apple carts overturned lose their collective minds.

This how we get notions of the romance of the Confederate South (the Confederates were literal traitors to the United States), Hitler did some good things but pushed it a little too far (with the genocide and the overthrowing of other sovereign nations), and Donald Trump will save America for the cabal of pedophilic, vampiric Democrats who have this nation bamboozled.

Nation bamboozling, maybe. Drinking the blood of babies, highly dramatic and unlikely.

Let us go with this: slavery is bad. Slavery was bad then, but the collective conscience went along with it, and many people fought and died to keep it anyway. You can have a love for your history and your ancestors and be real about the impact the way they lived their lives affected the world then and the ripples to how it affects the world today.

And no, I am not going to go there with reparations. But if you want to go there, or anywhere with this conversation, email me at jclevelandpayne@gmail.com.

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