Do facts scare you? Apparently, they scare some of our schools.
The New York Times Magazine has decided that the American history curriculum in public schools doesn’t address slavery and racism enough; and instead of seeking to correct any errors or oversights, they have decided to rewrite portions of American history in a way that has many deeply concerned.
The 1916 Project sees America’s entire history through the lens of slavery.
The American Revolution? That was actually a war started by white men to prevent the British from freeing their slaves.
Problem is, many notable historians disagree with this interpretation and have written letters claiming the project lacks historical evidence.
Gordon Stewart Wood, an American historian and Pulitzer Prize winner, wrote,
“I don’t know of any colonist who said that they wanted independence in order to preserve their slaves […] No colonist expressed alarm that the mother country was out to abolish slavery in 1776.”
The creator of the project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, admits that her own narrative and anger are woven into the project’s pages. “It’s a little angry,” she admitted on The Daily Show earlier this year.
Hannah-Jones’s strong emotional interest in the narrative seems to have confused fact with fiction, but she appears comfortable with this given her conviction that history cannot be objective.
In Hannah-Jones own words:
“I did respond to someone who was saying white scholars were afraid, and I think my point was that history is not objective. And that people who write history are not simply objective arbiters of facts, and that white scholars are no more objective than any other scholars, and that they can object to the framing and we can object to their framing as well.”
Hannah-Jones poses an interesting question about the importance of ‘framing’.
Is it enough for us to acknowledge our biases then carry-on with ‘framing’ history as we choose, or do we have a responsibility to try and move beyond our biases, once acknowledged, and represent history in the truest sense possible?
An important question for not just historians, but for us as well.
Do we want our teachers teaching history through the lense of our contemporary values/beliefs, or is it perhaps better to receive history as it was and to make our own judgements? Something to discuss over dinner tonight!
It turns out the president and many politicians are putting a stop to this track. Recently, President Donald Trump warned that schools set on implementing this new curriculum would lose federal funding.
Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark, who introduced legislation to defund schools using the new curriculum, called the project “a racially divisive, revisionist account of history that denies the noble principles of freedom and equality on which our nation was founded.”
A powerful claim that should strike in us deep angst.