On Friday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and 36 Republicans sent a letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona accusing him of trying to advance a “politicized and divisive agenda” in the teaching of American history. This is a full embrace of the latest Republican attempt to turn teaching history into a culture war.
There is a version of American history that starts out with, "Once upon a time..."
That is the history I was taught. (I'm 70) It is a myth, a fairy tale, not only because of what is told, but because what is left out.
America would not be the nation it is without slavery and genocide, starting from when the first Europeans set foot on this continent. That is a fact, a fact that colors all that this nation has accomplished. If we can, as a nation, acknowledge that fact, we can truly realize our great potential, and begin to make the myth a reality. That was the message of Martin Luther King.
But that myth is the basis of an entrenched power structure that will hold onto it with a death grip, because if the myth dies, so must the power structure.
This will not be easy.
I was born in the late 1940’s. In junior high and high school I suffered though domestic arts and sewing classes and I never seemed to get it right. I never learned to make the perfect white sauce and I always put the sleeves in backward. So, I had to get out the thread picker and unstitch them and put them in right. The normalisation of slavery in American put it’s sleeves in wrong in the fabric of democracy from the very beginning. It is going to take a lot of diligent unpicking and resewing to create an garment fit to be worn with pride and true to the proposition that all people are created equal with Liberty and justice for all. But it can be done, Biden is giving it a go. The macerations of the far right are right on cue. Lie, gaslight, mislead, on and on. Life can be complicated but doing the right thing really is not. The golden rule, kindness, equality before the law, these are worth striving for. For an ill fitting garment is not a lovely or practical thing to behold, but it can be altered to fit, given the will to do so. And by the way, later in life I discovered you can buy this stuff called wondra flour and pour it into milk and viola....white sauce!
When I read McConnell's claim that "American pride was at its lowest point in 20 years", I was skeptical. So I googled it (https://news.gallup.com/poll/312644/national-pride-falls-record-low.aspx). Turns out he's right about the measure of American pride. Gallup's poll shows that pride in America was remarkably steady from 2000 through 2016 - hovering around 80-85% year after year. Until Trump took office. Then national pride fell 20 points in 3 years. I wonder why?
I recall in Eighth Grade Colorado History (the "official" course) reading about what was then called "the Battle of Sand Creek," in which the valorous white people fought the dastardly Inidans and managed to kill many of them with few losses to the valorous white people. When I raised my hand and said from my reading of battles (I at the time had a College Freshman reading level and was already reading history books for recreation) it sounded like a massacre, I was once again sent to "polish the bench" in the Assistant Principal's Office (I did a lot of bench-polishing back then, which I didn't mind at all since they didn't seem to mind me bringing a book along to read - I don't think I got a report card in 12 years of public miseducation that didn't include "does not respond to properly constituted authority.")
Sometimes I wonder just for a second whether I'm reading The Onion, as it seems incredible what the Republicans are attempting to do in our country, in reframing history. The gaslighting continues even without 45 "reigning." Every morning I wake up grateful for our current leadership in the White House, but our work continues at the state level.
Thanks, Dr Heather 💜 Rest well.
As an author of non-academic nonfiction history, I have found in my own research that most "official history" is mythology at best and bullshit normally. Governmental bodies involved with keeping the official record to this day are busy cooking the books and stuffing that which they find inconvenient down what Orwell called "the memory hole."
In my history of naval aviation in the Korean War, I featured the accurate account of an air battle between a Navy pilot and Russian-flown aircraft that from the day it happened the Navy claimed never happened, due originally to their desire to hide from the Soviets the fact that the then-new No Such Agency (as the NSA is known to those of us who research it); the cover was "blown" back in 1992 when the Russians published the names of the four pilots who were killed in the fight. When I did my original research, I went to the Naval History & Heritage Command site, where I downloaded every Monthly Report of every aircraft carrier that was in the war (Monthly Reports are the basic place to start, since each covers everything that happens on a ship in a given month; they're goldmines of information). One of them was the November 1952 Monthly Report of USS Oriskany, where the Navy's cover story of the incident was done in detail. Before the book came out, i contacted NHHC and told them it was coming and asked if they were interested in revising their history to conform to the actual facts. They replied that "official history can only be changed by the sworn testimony of two US participants in the event, verified by subsequent research of the record." A year after the book came out, I was contacted by one of the retired admirals I interviewed, and was told he was unable to find the report up at the NHHC site. I went there and indeed, there was one monthly report missing from all the others - that one. It has been replaced by the Air Group Report, a far less-detailed document that has the cover story in outline only. I again contacted NHHC and they replied that "unfortunately, not all documents survive to be included in our records, and we have used the best available documentation." I replied "Well, since you're missing this report, I'm attaching a copy of my copy of this missing report that I downloaded from your side three years ago" and attached a digital copy to the e-mail. They have yet to respond.
When I wrote my most recent book, about naval aviation in Vietnam, I started with the (alleged) Tonkin Gulf (non) Incident, which I personally know was a bullshit story as an actual participant and from interviews with other participants over the years. The "official lie" that was used to take us into the War of Lies, the "Ur Lie" of the war as I have called it, was first debunked in the Pentagon Papers by the government itself 50 years ago. I came across verified research done in 2006 that found that the "lights in the water" reported as "North Vietnamese torpedo boats " was the reflection of lightning and moonlight on an enormous school of flying fish that annually transits the Gulf of Tonkin at that time, which was not known at the time. It turns out that the only guy who "got it right" was LBJ who exclaimed on being first informed of the event, "Those poor dumb sailors were probably shooting at flying fish." Yet if you go to that waste of electrons known as the Vietnam Fifty Project, which celebrates the valiant efforts of Americans in that war (!), you will find them STILL telling the Ur Lie of the War of Lies. The guy running that bullshit operation doesn't like me after i posted my chapter on the site (which not-so-mysteriously "failed to post" within 24 hours)
I could go on. The "facts" most people know about "the forgotten war" in Korea have turned out in the light of actual research to be what I called in an interview "wartime propaganda that has fossilized over 70 years into fact-like material that is the historical equivalent of coprolites."
Quite frankly, anyone who believes what I call "American Official Mythology" put out by the US government on any topic probably also believes in the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and that the sun will rise in the west tomorrow. Another term one can now use is "Republican History." It's as factual as "Republican Justice."
It is amusing that McConnell is concerned about "American Pride". I would say it is American arrogance that Mitch wants to protect. The ruling class in America wants to protect it's position and keep the working stiffs busy and out of the way, especially in the education of our children. Like any great empire, we have a lot to be ashamed of and need to learn from the mistakes we have made in the past.
Lest we not forget, and as far as we currently know....... the first persons of "colour" to arrive in North America were "white" and entered a world where the skin colour varied from "tan" through "yellowish"to "red" depending which part of the Native American population you frequented. It is only the extreme difference that made the skin colour an issue. The attitude of those white arrivals to the human life that they discovered in this "New World" was something else......although it would seem that many of the locals were not necessarily too shocked by their brutality if you consider the prevalence of human sacrifice in some cultures.
The arrival of Afro-American slaves and their treatment continued a tradition that the White invaders had established over a century previously....even with some of their own being subjected to the same treatment. The Blacks were then, for the Native Americans....who were already somewhat diminished by the incoming diseases and bellicose attitude by this time...were the second "people of colour" to arrive on their shores.
The history of America dates from, on current research, from well over 20,000 years ago and should be taught as such. The Republic, as a political organization, dates from its foundation on July 4th, 1776. Regimes change, some bad, some good....but Nations go beyond the political names and structures that we give them as they change and not the Nation. The Nation is a sum total of all its history and not just that which the interests, ideologies and values of a particular time dictate.
The central lesson for today, imho, is that the 1619 Project is a robust and enduring endeavor and .... This letter from McConnell and his tribe will most likely never have standing in our history,, save as a footnote of grievances . So I will not be alarmed by his penmanship.
However, the efforts of southern states to dictate their beliefs upon their educational curriculum is, well, their choice. Education, and much else of life, appear to be a right of the states, and the southerners do LOVE their states’ rights! So, we have a cultural war playing out, again. Let’s see, we have the values discord playing out with differences of “Liberty and Justice for All” pertaining to women and their full freedom of liberty; LGBTQ+ and all others who identify as they desire, in their pursuit of one’s liberty; all others who do not identify as WASP - and let’s include practicing Jews and Catholics, who btw, and deemed as ‘outsiders’ by conservatives, as they pursue one's own personal liberty .....
I’ve drawn my own conclusion here, that our culture war can be reduced to understanding one’s own perspective of “Liberty and Justice For All.”
To most people alive today, wherever one is alive, “All” means no one is left behind. From wherever one’s roots are planted, “all” means “no one is left behind”. So, I suggest we include our friends who cite McConnell, the Klan, authoritarianism, and even fascism, in our collective human family. They have their right to pursue fascistic values. But the tide of justice cannot be stopped, as it is simply a force of both human nature and mother nature.
I will be happy to call out one’s fascistic values, if they do not see that “all” includes, actually, themselves and EVERY brother and sister, in this human family.
“Liberty and Justice for All"
Gregory Woolleyjust now
Given how Conservative pundits like Senator Kennedy are saying, on one hand, that "The government and the people are two different things", on the other hand, they're saying that "big businesses are people", it's little wonder that "American pride has plummeted to its lowest level in 20 years", while big business is booming.
This is frustrating to the point of anger! OMG!! Lie, Gas Light and now rewrite history.Let us put into our written history how these traitors continue to try and blur the historical record of our nation and change the perspective on what they are actually doing right now. This fight is endless but we cannot let them win.
Oh, lordy! Now the education of young minds is politicised. "Give me a child when they are 6" I guess a future generation of unquestioning Republicans is the aim. That it should be wrapped up in such blatantly false argument - forgive me while I vomit...
White, slave-holding men created the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, and our system of government. Should we simply erase them all from history because they are now viewed as morally reprehensible? Or would it be the role of history to contend with these contradictory facts? Perhaps Barack Obama will be erased in due time because of the drone program, or his own expulsion of refugees? Is the role of history to teach history in all its conflicting parts, or is it a tool for societal manipulation? I'm not interested in a dismantling of history anymore than I'm interested in a mythical lie. History should move us, it should reveal the people, places and events that are crucial to understanding the scope of the nation and our own place in it. It should no more shy away from terrible decisions and events, then it does the important victories. In other words, stop using children as political pawns, and start opening their minds to our rich and ugly and beautiful and heartwrenching and joyous past. Because it is not just one story, it's all of them.
I am concerned by this: "The department is proposing two priorities to reach low-income students and underserved populations. The Republicans object to the one that encourages “projects that incorporate racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse perspectives into teaching and learning.”'
The department should be concerned about reaching ALL communities because it is imperative that we teach ALL communities about white privilege and systemic racism. Otherwise, predominantly "white" communities will continue believing the myth of America: that "white is right." I'm convinced that lifting "racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse perspectives" alone will not tackle systemic racism. We must also teach that whiteness is a social construct tied to power and keeping power. More and more schools are hiring DEI directors but it will continue serving as a "feel good" fix until we are also willing to voice the reality of White Supremacy and all that that means. Let's do both at the same time!
Lily whiteness is blinding. That is the intention of McMurderer and his klan...to distort history. Yes, they want to keep people of color in “their place”. God forbid they should become scholars, historians, leaders. Again, the white hoods are in full view. We must burn the old history books and rewrite/ teach the truth about how and when slavery came about. How a despicable man became a Russian operative and stole an election from a qualified woman. How white scum attacked the Capitol’s sacred grounds and how seditionists are in powerful roles in Congress.
Recently, one of our forum members asked Dr. Richardson to address the 1619 Project. She offered no information, but she prompted me to do some research on Project 1619. I discovered that despite the loud aggressive attacks on the project, I support the endeavor. Authors of the project have tweaked the preliminary report in response to some critiques, but they have maintained strong conviction in their project with regard to America's future methods of honoring the truth of our real history. I delighted in Hannah-Jones' retort to Mike Pomeo.
Dr. Richardson reports that : Then–Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that multiculturalism [is]... not who America is.” It “distort[s] our glorious founding and what this country is all about.” Hannah-Jones retorted: "When you say that multiculturalism is 'not who America is' and 'distorts our glorious founding' you unwittingly confirm the argument of the 1619 Project: That though we were ... a multiracial nation from our founding, our founders set forth a government of white rule. Cool."
There will more than likely be more developments to this story.