Black and Native American History, Not Creationism, Should Be in Textbooks
A new poll released yesterday by Public Policy Polling finds that Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal is the least popular Republican governor in the country, and second most unpopular governor in the U.S. overall.
Jindal’s rock-bottom approval ratings are probably thanks in large part to his outlandish and just plain stupid ideas.
One of his particularly awful ideas was to institute a private school voucher program in Louisiana that used state funds to pay for religious and for-profit schools and diploma mills.
Declared unconstitutional by the Louisiana Supreme Court earlier this summer, Jindal’s voucher program would have spent tens of millions of taxpayer dollars funding private school education for Louisiana children.
To make matters worse, under Jindal’s privatized education plan, taxpayer dollars would have been used to teach Louisiana children that dinosaurs and humans hung out together back in the Stone Age, that fire-breathing dragons were real, that slave-masters were caring and compassionate people, that the KKK was a positive social movement in America, and that climate change is a big joke.
While children learning that climate change is a myth and that slave masters were nice guys may sound outrageous, there is something even more insidious going on in public schools across America: Our children aren’t being taught the history of their own country.
For example, the history of organized labor in America has been virtually wiped from our classrooms.
A 2011 study by the Albert Shanker Institute found that America’s high-school students are being taught little to nothing about organized labor’s contribution to American history.
The report highlighted a number of shortcomings. It argued that the role of unions in fighting for and winning social protections is overlooked, and labor’s role in helping to win the civil rights battle is all but ignored.
But there’s more about organized labor in America that our schools are failing to teach.
Walk into any American public high school today, and it will be next to impossible to find a student who’s heard of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was a federal law signed by President Chester A. Arthur on May 6, 1882.
The law came in response to the flood of Chinese immigrants who came to America to work on large labor projects, like the building of the First Transcontinental Railroad, and was one the largest restrictions on free immigration in U.S. history, as well as one of the most explicitly racist laws ever passed.
The same students who don’t know about the Chinese Exclusion Act also probably haven’t heard about the Ludlow Massacre, an attack by the Colorado National Guard and by Colorado Fuel & Iron Company camp guards on a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families in Ludlow, Colorado on April 20, 1914.
The Ludlow Massacre was one of the most important moments in American labor relations history, yet it’s missing from or underplayed by most textbooks.
The history of labor in America isn’t the only part of our nation’s history that’s been stripped out of our classrooms coast-to-coast.
Most American students have probably heard about the women’s suffrage movement, and have learned something about how hard women fought to get the right to vote. They probably even know a thing or two about some of the more famous Suffragettes.
But how many students know that, back in the earliest days of our nation, a married woman wasn’t allowed to make out a will because she was not allowed to own land or legally control anything else worthy of willing to another person?
When was the last time a textbook talked about how during colonial times, if the man of a family household died, the executor of his will, another man, would decide who would raise the wife’s children and in what religion. The wife had no right to make those decisions and no say in such matters.
The true history of Native Americans is also often overlooked, if not ignored, in our nation’s classrooms.
While our nation’s children may learn the names of the most popular tribes in America, and be given a cursory overview of their cultures, mention of the Native American genocide that was perpetrate by our nation is pretty much non-existent.
While some Native American tribes were settled on reservations, others were hunted down and massacred by 19th century American settlers.
America’s actions against the Native American people were so egregious and deplorable that in September of 2000, when the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs formally apologized to the Native American people for years of misery, oppression and violence, the term “ethnic cleansing” was used.
When Columbus “discovered” America, he “discovered” a country that was already fully occupied.
Native American groups occupied America coast-to-coast when Columbus “discovered” it, but maps like this one detailing the extent of the Native American population fail to appear in just about every textbook on U.S. history.
Columbus’ “discovery” of America also marked the beginning of the Native American genocide.
Some scholars estimate the population of the United States before Europeans showed up was greater than 12 million. Four centuries later, 95 percent of them were dead, and only 237,000 survived.
Ever since the Reagan Revolution and the subsequent takeover of national textbook content by the Texas Board of Education, right-wingers continue to edit and re-write our school textbooks and classroom lessons.
Texas controls our textbooks because elected Conservatives took over their Board of Education, which, thanks to Texas law, has the power to decide what goes in and what stays out of textbooks in Texas.
But, because Texas is such a large purchaser of textbooks, the Texas Board of Education dictates to textbook companies what gets put in textbooks used by students all across America.
Fortunately, there are 19 other states where state boards of education must decide what goes into textbooks, and one of those states is California.
California has been trying for years to introduce more realistic teachings and lessons into its textbooks.
Let’s hope for our children’s sake that California is soon able to provide a counter-balance to Texas’ Conservative takeover of education in America.
This piece was reprinted by Indian Country Today Media Network with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
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