It seems like eons since I sat in my high school American history class. At the time, history and government were by far and away my two most un-favorite subjects. Had I only had wonderful teachers – as I had in my two favorite sujects – math and science – that might have been different, but I did not. Today I would place the importance of those two right next to the advanced math and physics courses in importance: the latter two helped me into an engineering career of 50 years. The first two would have helped me be a better citizen over those years. I haven’t been in a high school classroom since I graduated, but I have a hunch that what “kids” are being taught today is not far from what I may have been presented with, especially on the subject of the Civil War and slavery, and of course, the well-concealed subject of “whiteness,” and white people’s privileges.
More than half of teachers across America say they are comfortable talking about slavery as a condition, within their classrooms. But no matter how good the teachers are, or how “open” they are to discussing these difficult subjects, they are challenged and controlled by the laws of their states and local school boards, and totally hamstrung with having to use text books and materials that generally fail grossly to present slavery and its full history and context, especially from the viewpoint of those enslaved.
This study pulls back the covers on the sorry state of what and how America teaches its progeny about these subjects that today continue to divide us at our dinner tables and within our places of worship as well:
I live in Texas, and am a 6th generation version. Some of my ancestors who moved to Texas before the end of the Civil War, apparently “had” slaves. One of my G-g-g-grandfathers was a Mississippi plantation owner during the War and had slaves. After the war he moved to Dallas, and is buried there. I would love to have seen his eyes when I married my black Queen in Dallas, some 50 years ago. Only last year did the Texas school book “approvers” vote to give slavery equal footing with “states’ rights” in our new textbooks. I am happy, but sad and mad about this situation.
The problem across the US is that education is as politicized as any other “social” matter. When you live in a society that has kept the realities of these subjects and topics essentially under lock and key, and in many states so-called “conservatives” having swallowed the keys, obviously we are years and years from resolving this educational matter. By not resolving it, we are just renewing the policies of segregation, discrimination, hate and violence and domestic terrorism that are today the hallmarks of America core.
I have faith, though, that one day, the Truths will set America free. Until that day, let us keep doing what each of us can to make it happen!