Some folks in Oklahoma have a problem presenting American history the way it actually happened. What they prefer instead is teaching history in a way that makes America look like a great country with no flaws. Slavery? Well, come on now. No need to get into that. The mistreatment of Native Americans? Let’s skip that one too. Jim Crow -- who needs to be taught about that stuff? Women being left out of voting for so long? Nitpicking.
According to some lawmakers and their supporters in Oklahoma, high school students shouldn’t be burdened with all that nonsense. All they need to be taught is about our greatness. They want to ban Advanced Placement courses in Oklahoma high schools because they believe the curriculum is not patriotic enough. A bill was actually passed in an Oklahoma House committee, by the majority Republicans, not surprisingly.
"We don't want our tax dollars going to a test that undermines our history," said Dan Fisher, a Republican lawmaker who authored the bill.
According to a Reuters news story, the lawmakers say, “The revised guidelines for the history course cast the United States in a harsh light by giving undue emphasis to topics such as slavery and the treatment of Native Americans, while distorting events such as the U.S. involvement in World War Two.”
Undue emphasis on slavery and the treatment of Native Americans. Think about that. What was done during slavery, and its aftermath, and what happened to Native Americans, and is still going on, can never be overemphasized. Those actions impacted society in irreversible and indelible ways. There is not one person who is not impacted even today by the history of slavery and the segregation laws that followed. Manifest Destiny, a 19th century attitude that fueled American expansion based on the belief that the U.S. was destined to stretch from coast to coast led to so much heartache for non-whites. And yet we should ignore that because it does not put our country and the majority population in the best light?
Sadly, Oklahoma is not the only place with the idea that we shouldn’t spend much time teaching young people about our blemishes. This past September, the Texas State Board of Education also requested the College Board rewrite the the AP U.S. history curriculum. And the Republican National Committee also denounced the course, citing its negative view of American history. Committee members believed the program “depicts American colonists as oppressors and exploiters while ignoring the dreamers and innovators who built our country,” as MSNBC reported.
The problem for these people is history. While we definitely have dreamers and innovators, it is also true that we have had oppressors and exploiters. There is no denying that both are true. Can we say it has been 50-50 on both sides of that dichotomy? No we can’t. And there is no way to understand America and our history without a thorough look at what made this country what it is, warts and all.
Photo Credit: WikiCommons, Mike Mozart/Flickr