Friday, February 27, 2015

American History Exed

I am not sure if there is a competition about which the general public knows nothing, but it seems that a number of states are trying to out-stupid each other in the realm of children’s education. Oklahoma legislature passed a bill that would essentially defund AP US History in high schools, because a committee deemed the curriculum “threatening the public peace, health and safety”. They are not the first to try to push legislation against funding AP History; Colorado, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and, of course, Texas, all had lawmakers who voiced opposition to the AP curriculum.

Why? Because it focuses on some darker parts of the US’s history, like the Trail of Tears, the Chinese rail workers’ plight, Japanese internment, and also a lot of the intricate details of historical figures that get left out or glossed over in regular high school history. They claim that it focuses too much on these negative aspects of our past, which is “unpatriotic”. Sayers of “nay” also claim that there was inadequate talk of important documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, or of important figure like the Founding Fathers and important social leaders, which makes it inadequate for national testing standards.

Of course, all of these claims are utter tripe. Anyone who has taken an AP exam knows that you get enough talk of the Founders and MLK and Eli Whitney to fill more than a few essay questions worth of facts about them. If you don’t believe me, check out this practice exam. I would like to see the lawmakers who raised this issue take and pass the exam. Given state legislatures’ knowledge of the female human anatomy, I highly doubt that they were great history scholars either. Furthermore, why are we even letting states with the some of the LOWEST scores in education have any say in our children’s education? Of the mentioned states, only Colorado is in the top 10 in overall ranking, and NC, SC, and GA have some of the least safe schools. Of the six states, Texas spends the least in education. If educators and legislators in the #1 and #2 in education, New Jersey and Massachusetts, made a gripe, then maybe I’d pay attention, but these states are consistently bad at education spending and deployment. It is kind of like trying to take Mississippi serious about mending and cooperative race relations when they just ratified the 13th Amendment 2 YEARS AGO.

Some have been saying that these smudges in our armour of perfection is lying. Let us be clear: TALKING ABOUT THINGS THAT YOU DON’T LIKE DOES NOT MAKE THOSE THINGS LIES. Saying things that are not true make them lies. Omitting things that ARE true and bad is almost as bad as lying. Barack Obama was not being unpatriotic and lying and anti-Christian when he pointed out at a prayer breakfast that Christianity has been used to do horrible things to people. Mass lynchings of black people happened. Jim Crow happened. Chattel slavery happened. The Trail of Tears happened. The Salem Witch Trials happened. All of these were terrible, and all of them were justified by the twisting of a mainstream religion. If I hit someone with a hammer, the hammer is not bad. I am bad...unless it’s Sean Hannity or Tyler Perry’s hand as he tries to hand in a new script. People who pretend that these things didn’t happen because that cannot IMAGINE these bad parts of our collective history sound as ridiculous as people trying to bend over backwards to concoct conspiracy theories to deny the 35+ Bill Cosby rape allegation just because they have very fond memories of The Cosby Show and Fat Albert.
Lack of teaching “American Exceptionalism” is a common complaint among the idiocracy, as if bringing up these bad things of the past somehow makes us anti-American and unpatriotic. I will concede that the United States of America is exceptional. We only took a few years build a representative government with a living constitution that can be amended. Our government structure was a mix of previously attempted democratic republics and something completely new. It was the model for future governments. We have a foothold in the world economy and civic policy (whether you like it or not) not seen since people thought the world was flat and only the indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere knew about the Western Hemisphere. In less than 300 years, our worldwide influence is unprecedented. It took other governments up to 1000 years to achieve that in their known world. That is pretty exceptional.

Do you know what else is exceptional? That we had men who fought for and built the skeletal structure of this country based on the freedom and autonomy of every man, but still owned other men and considered them only 60% human, and that was only because of a compromise. Also, we built our base economy on the backs of those 60% people, and when we freed them, we did little to protect them from the wrath of those who once owned them until nearly 100 years later. We made land treaties with people who we KNEW had a different idea about ownership, and then when we reneged on those deals, we either killed them or made them walk thousands of miles to a completely different part of the country. In either case, we kidnapped their children and forced them to stop learning about their own personal history. We joined a war to fight a dictator who deemed it necessary to pen certain people in work and death camps, while we put our own citizens and residents in “relocation camps”. The atrocities we have imposed on our own citizens in less than 300 years are pretty amazing. It took other governments up to 1000 years to achieve that in their known world. That is pretty exceptional.

This is our United States of America. Looking and learning about the bad parts does not make one unpatriotic, but only focusing on the good aspects and denying/ignoring the dark side definitely is. You are lying to yourself if you think you are doing yourself a favour by raising holy hell every time someone talks about the horrors of slavery or the Japanese internment or the involuntary scientific testing or fighting against woman sovereignty. You only make yourself look like a fool. People with spouses love them (hopefully), but they love them despite their flaws, and if they have a detrimental habit, they help their spouses grow out of those flaws. Pretending that things in the past didn’t happen and trying to make it so that our children won’t know does not create a super patriot. It creates an idiot who lags in the world in the realm of true knowledge. We need to stop these lawmakers from trying to out-stupid each other.

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