Just the Facts, Mam
By Patrick F. Cannon
Based on my own education – which began 77 years ago and continues – I can tell you that there was just a smattering of African-American history taught until I got to college. I can’t pretend to know what kids in the South were taught, but even in grammar school in Pittsburgh and Chicago, we were made aware that slavery was an evil and that the Emancipation Proclamation and Civil War ended it, and that was pretty much it.
By the time I graduated from college, I had a much better appreciation for the appalling effects of slavery; and I grew up with the civil rights movement of the 1960s and later. The problem with Americans is not that they are ignorant of African-American history; rather it is their abysmal ignorance of American – much less world – history in general. Here’s a depressing fact: only one in three Americans were able to pass the citizenship test, which requires only that you answer 60 percent of the questions correctly.
To me, the answer to this is not teaching more African-American history, but actually mandating that children be taught, in appropriate stages, the entire history of their country, warts and all. Frankly, I don’t think it’s healthy for the kids involved to single out any particular racial or ethnic group for special attention. On Monday, I was informed by the Chicago Tribune (or what’s left of it) that Illinois schools would be required to teach Asian-American history. What next? Native American history? Armenian-American history? Where does this end?
I won’t go into the subject of “critical race theory” except to say that if factual history were taught at all levels, then an intelligent person would discover on his or her own that it has mostly been better to be white in this country than black. At certain times, it has also been better to be from Western Europe than Eastern; and Protestant rather than Roman Catholic; and anything rather than Jewish. Similarly, courses in world history should not exclude any part of the world. Then, if you’re interested in further exploring your own racial or ethnic background, there are plenty of sources available.
Although one should be careful about making blanket statements, it seems to me that these mandatory courses are more indoctrination than anything else. How else can you explain little white kids being made to feel guilty for their skin color, as if the mere fact of it means they are tainted by systemic racism at birth. Is racism really genetic? Some people seem to believe it is.
And just who teaches our kids history? Or is it “social studies?” I would be interested to see how many primary grade teachers could pass that citizenship test. In high schools, no one should teach history who was not a history major in college, and who can’t pass a test on the subject he or she is teaching. Not a test on theory, but on subject knowledge. And no teacher should go into a classroom with a political bias. And no teacher should be taught that they are part of a social experiment. As Joe Friday (a legendary TV detective on Dragnet; look him up) was fond of saying: “just the facts, mam.”
Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon