Teaching America's Truth

John Winn

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Well, I got some material from the Civil War Trust not long ago saying they thought Civil War history (and by extension American history) was not getting the focus in schools it should and they were asking for donations for some type of educational program. So, they certainly seem to think history is getting a short shrift in schools. As I don't have children I don't really follow such things but I have heard some teacher friends say there's a sharp focus on STEM subjects and that those are largely how schools and teachers are rated.

As far as what I was taught I'm afraid I wasn't paying much attention back then, what with not being a very well-adjusted child and having to worry about getting beat up every day. I do remember, though, our class being visited by two military school cadets who talked about the war. That's because one said that the bayonet was the primary weapon of the war and I questioned him about that when it was question time and was made to stay after school because the teacher thought I was being rude. Turns out he was wrong.

And all that about not remembering makes me remember Father Sarducci and his five-minute university skit. For those who've forgotten that he offered to just teach the stuff you'd actually remember and so you could earn a Master's on your lunch hour. When I think back on college - a lot of which I do actually remember - I've often thought I was made to memorize a lot of stuff that I've never had any use for. I certainly could have got the material that I really needed for my career and life in general in maybe half the time I spent (B.S. and M.S.). Geez ... memorizing the Krebs cycle, 90% of inorganic chemistry, calculus, having to identify tree and plant species I'd never see - because they only grow in three counties in Main or in a swamp in Mississippi - by their fruit and leaves, having to collect fungi that have little to nothing to do with trees.

I think a real education is a lot more than just memorizing facts; why those things happened, how they affected us, and what political and social lessons we might learn are more important. So, I'd agree that the good and the ugly truths need to be told. These days, though, I wonder if one might not be walking a tightrope in some places to try and really examine something like the history of slavery. Somebody is probably going to find something offensive and not want their child's tender young self to be traumatized by learning such things.
 
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ndnboy

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Dec 13, 2013
Will the current approach promote this healing? I doubt it. I still maintain that the people who needed to apologize and deal with the wound were the people who perpetrated/experienced slavery. A century and a half later it really is too late, and all we're doing is creating hard feelings and dividing people over a long dead institution that none of us have experienced. Time will tell.
Does this explain the 1960's????? Who needs to apologize and deal with those wounds? My parents? Your parents? Who was responsible for perpetuating the need for the Civil Rights struggle? So many questions.....
 

Yankee Brooke

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PA
I too have grown, I just find it funny that the "trauma" of being picked on stayed with me, but not the math and stuff. I remember history classes fairly well though, at least I think I do.

As far as American history... I found it to be the opposite throughout school. We practically glanced over anything that America and Americans weren't directly involved in. They practically glanced over even some of those. The World Wars just weren't important until we came in. Anything ancient, Greece, Egypt, Rome, Carthage, China... all touched on, sometimes barely. I've learned far more about those subjects on my own than school taught me.

I do think we can do a better job of teaching the whole story.
 

WJC

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Please restrict posts to discussing Mr. Heim's Washington Post article, "Teaching America's Truth", which focuses on the teaching of slavery as it related to the American Civil War."
 

Tom Hughes

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Location
Mississippi
This all makes up the American experience - good and bad.
Slavery happened for a reason and was eradicated for a reason.
It all makes us a stronger nation.
And makes for interesting history discussions.
 
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mo
I think the article is where we all should be heading in teaching our nation's history, good and bad, to our kids and grandkids.

I agree with @uaskme , that should be ALL of it, the history of Indians, Northern involvement in slavery, Lincoln's actions concerning slavery before and during the Civil War, to include the idea of sending slaves back to Africa.

The big problem I see are those folks who feel expanded teaching of slavery is somehow a waste of time or that we are plowing up old wounds. We're not, we're just beginning to see an expanded picture, a somewhat clearer view of those times and the effects upon our nation, then and now.

It can only help us to get a better understanding of our past and our present, with the idea of a better future for everyone in our country.

What is "expanded teaching of slavery" when I went to school back in the 1980's we were taught the United States had slavery till 1865, it was wrong, we ended it...…….what more is really necessary to say about it? Perhaps post slavery civil rights could have been expanded on.....but curious what else needs taught about slavery? Other issues like racism to immigrants wasnt covered at all by comparison.....
 
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I have no intention of being disrespectful towards you Archie, but sadly for many politics does influence many in their/our past history and present politics. And not only here.

Our past learning, legends and family tales which have been passed down and have been burnt into many of our memories and our very souls and need, nay, require reflection from time to time. You are a farm-boy like me, there was NO lazy when it came time to fork-out the the barn and sling it into the spreader...we needed it to fertilize the fields...less chemical $$. Now, when Dad got the tractor with the front end loader to scoop most of it, I will not deny that I was not disappointed, it was just something else to be learned how to work. Like history in a way...

OBJ

I agree far too often politics does influence it, when it shouldnt as its recorded events......simply present the recorded events without political spin or agendas......
 
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unionblue

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What is "expanded teaching of slavery" when I went to school back in the 1980's we were taught the United States had slavery till 1865, it was wrong, we ended it...…….what more is really necessary to say about it? Perhaps post slavery civil rights could have been expanded on.....but curious what else needs taught about slavery? Other issues like racism to immigrants wasnt covered at all by comparison.....

There's a tad bit more on slavery and the US and it's aftereffects after 1865.
 
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There's a tad bit more on slavery and the US and it's aftereffects after 1865.

I said that, so agree, however civil rights and slavery are two different topics

Slavery ended in 1865, so post CW is actually a different subject.....And civil rights should include the racism directed at immigrants, Catholics, Jews, and Native Americans which wasnt addressed much if at all when i was in school.

Postwar on the west coast there was the equivilent of "jim crow" laws in many cases directed towards the Chinese, Mexicans, and Native Americans
 
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Nathanb1

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The author points out some specific examples from school texts widely used ith the past. For example,
“With all the drawbacks of slavery, it should be noted that slavery was the earliest form of social security in the United States,” students read in Alabama history textbooks of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. And there was this: “A jail sentence or the execution of a slave was considered to be more of a punishment for the master than for the slave, because the slave was such valuable property.”​
A Virginia textbook of the same era told students that Virginia “offered a better life for the Negroes than did Africa. In his new home, the Negro was far away from the spears and war clubs of enemy tribes. He had some of the comforts of civilized life.”​
Do any of you older members recall being taught these views?

I probably count in that group. So...no. But I also could have forgotten.
 

Nathanb1

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I said that, so agree, however civil rights and slavery are two different topics

Slavery ended in 1865, so post CW is actually a different subject.....And civil rights should include the racism directed at immigrants, Catholics, Jews, and Native Americans which wasnt addressed much if at all when i was in school.

Postwar on the west coast there was the equivilent of "jim crow" laws in many cases directed towards the Chinese, Mexicans, and Native Americans

I agree on the other groups not being addressed. Despite a lot of pushback from our crappy Texas State Board of Education, Texas does have a very comprehensive system of addressing all those topics. Just search for Texas Social Studies TEKS. Of course, as a former history teacher, my kids got extra...any good teacher does. Problem is honestly that teachers aren't all made alike, and coaches are usually the teachers. I had probably a worst-case scenario in high school, along with several best-case scenarios...one of the reasons I wanted to coach and teach history was to prove the two didn't have to be mutually exclusive.
 
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