Many of you may not know this, but one of my sons has Asperger’s Syndrome. After many years of trying to force public schools to meet his needs, my husband and I decided to school him from home. Public schools, and how they educate pupils with special needs, deserves a post of its own. Wait for it, it is coming. But that is not what I want to discuss today.
Virginia utilizes a “Virginia Studies” course for fourth grade students. The curriculum mandates instruction and retention of information about the state’s history, ranging from Jamestown to the Civil War. Naturally, there is no way to not include the plight of the Native peoples and Africans. My child noticed right away how the language used, in an official textbook, didn’t describe events, as they truly happened.
(Him) Wow! This book is really not accurate, Mom.
(Me) Well, no, son. It does not tell the whole story.
He saw right through the book’s attempt to force the Natives into the role of aggressors.
(Him) How can the English really be called pioneers? Pioneers settle land that hasn’t been settled before. This land was settled. And how come my book calls them savages? And why weren’t they (the settlers) nicer to the tribes that taught them how to survive? This book is not good! Who wrote this thing?
He laughed at how the enslaved Africans were portrayed.
(Him) Everybody knows that the slaves wouldn’t be laughing and dancing after all the work was done. Slavery was not fun! This book is stupid.
He is nine years old.
In all fairness, Aspies tend to have highly focused interests in certain topics. The Powhatan tribes are one of his “things”. But what of those children who trust what is written in their textbooks? What message are we sending when Native peoples are seen as wild things who just needed to be tamed? And the atrocity that is slavery is made out to be just a job, with singing and dancing at night?
Then, I was reminded of the fight in Texas.
In recent years, board members have been locked in an ideological battle between a block of conservatives who question Darwin’s theory of evolution and believe the Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles, and a handful of Democrats and moderate Republicans who have fought to preserve the teaching of Darwinism and the separation of church and state.
And this, in Louisiana.
Really? Dinosaurs and humans? The KKK a decent organization? Slave masters and the Great Depression were not so bad. Really? Because math is too hard and we have good reason to doubt climate change. No use fighting the rapture, ..excuse me.., globalization.
Is it really a surprise that our children are falling through the cracks?
Look. I get it. We are Americans. We want our children to be proud of their country. We want them to recognize that America is one hell of a great place to live. We, Americans, feel exceptional.
Recently, we were reminded of the dangers of exceptionalism. Our newest BFF, Vladimir Putin, had this to say:
It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
Many of us are leaping to the defense of our new friend. But keep in mind, he has also said this:
We will not allow someone to impose their will on us, because we have our own will! It has helped us to conquer! We are a victorious people! It is in our genes, in our genetic code!
This is all to remind you that every country feels it is exceptional. History and facts are not ours to change, shape, and mold. Our children deserve to know what happened, as it actually happened. They deserve to hear many sides of the same story. What we have been giving them, and seemingly want to continue to give to them, is propaganda.
Adam did not ride the back of Brontosaurus. Slavery was not a club. Natives were not savages. The KKK and the Great Depression were horrible. There is a separation between church and state. Climate change is real.
Our children truly are our future. Pride in our country is all fine and dandy. I just don’t want to hear my grandchildren asking, about their textbooks, …Who wrote this thing?