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Thu Sep 17, 2020, 07:37 PM

Trump Threat To Defund Schools Teaching Slavery 1619: Long Hst. of Politicizing US History Class

'Trump's Threat to Pull Funding From Schools Over How They Teach Slavery Is Part of a Long History of Politicizing American History Class.' TIME Magazine, Sept. 16, 2020. Edited. (Timely piece on a major issue impacting every aspect of American society and democracy. Spare the 'history is written by the winners' chestnut. Tx).

With the nation divided along political lines, amid ever-mounting suspicion of supposed outside influences undermining American security, a group of powerful people decided to go right to the root of what they saw as the problem: American students, they believed, were being taught a skewed version of their own history that was designed to weaken patriotism. To stop the corrosion, someone would have to intervene. This scenario may sound familiar, but it didn’t take place just last week, when President Trump threatened the funding of Calif. schools that teach the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which reframes the country’s origins around the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Va. (Project material has been used to supplement curricula in schools nationwide, though the extent of implementation in Ca. is not clear.)

- Tweet: DJT, Department of Education is looking at this. If so, they will not be funded! Ocitman @Ocitman Replying to @LisaMarieBoothe and @HotlineJosh california has implemented the 1619 project into the public schools. soon you wont recognize america

But in fact, that scenario could have taken place in the aftermath of the Civil War. Or in 1917. Or in 1948. So it’s no surprise that historians’ collective reaction to Trump’s tweet—and a similar sentiment expressed earlier this summer by Ark. GOP Sen. Tom Cotton’s introduction of the Saving American History Act of 2020—was one of déjà vu. The teaching of U.S. History in public schools has always been political, & such concerns about whether curricula are “anti-American” are par for the course in moments of turmoil. “It’s the story of history education in this country,” says historian & former AP U.S. History teacher Lindsay Marshall. “Cycle after cycle of political anxiety manifesting in ‘well, obviously we’re teaching our own history wrong and that’s the problem.'” That anxiety tends to come up in the wake of wars & other disturbances to the status quo. Post Civil War, for example, Northern & Southern states continued to fight, about how to talk about the Civil War in schools. Donald Yacovone, at the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard Univ., notes that one late 19th cent. textbook framed the war as a battle between monarchical Northern states & the South, which seceded from the Union to preserve true democracy.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy sought to rid textbooks used in Southern schools of “long-legged Yankee lies.” In doing so, these advocates often instead planted the seeds of the Lost Cause myth, manipulating the story of the war to minimize the role of slavery; the ramifications of that campaign are still felt today.

Parallel anxieties persisted into the 20th cent. In the archives of the American Book Co. textbook publisher, a scholar found letters about a conversation in fall 1917, during WWI, on whether to remove the Declaration of Independence from a U.S. history textbook so as “to foster no animosity against our ally, England.” The company decided that would be going too far. However, wartime fear that the children of German immigrants would grow up loyal to Germany did prompt NY to pass a law in 1918 banning public schools from teaching textbooks containing material “seditious in character, disloyal to the U.S., or favorable to the cause of any foreign country with which the U.S. is now at war.” Historians told TIME that the latest wave of backlash also reminded them of a controversy over schoolbooks in the late 1930s & early 1940s that asked children to consider whether the U.S. was living up to its founding ideals. Published in the Depression era, the popular series was seen as anti-capitalist, rankling business leaders and drove suspicion about writer Harold Rugg, a professor at Teachers College at Columbia Univ. which some conservatives viewed as a hotbed for communist thought. So schools withdrew the books after negative press coverage & pressure from The American Legion accusing Rugg of printing “treason.”

Anxiety over “anti-American” history curricula is not new, & neither are efforts to push back. After WWII, in the Cold War Red Scare era, curriculum writer Paul Hanna—whose publication 'Building America' was nixed in 1948 by Calif. over concerns that it portrayed communist society too favorably—warned that students would fall for propaganda more easily if they weren’t armed with a balanced view of U.S. & World history. “We do believe that strength sufficient to withstand the world pressure of Communism will be enhanced if we are (1) realistic about our own achievements, & (2) know the strengths and weaknesses of our adversaries,” Hanna said in 1948. One reason that K-12 history education controversies repeat is because of the “unanswered question about what history class is supposed to be for,” argues Adam Laats, historian & author. “Is the point of history class to introduce young Americans to their heritage of heroes, the glories of American history? Or is history class supposed to make young people into critical examiners of their society, a true civic education that teaches American young people to question every bit of received wisdom and be ready to change what needs changing?”...

Read More, https://time.com/5889051/history-curriculum-politics/
Also: 'Trump Announces Commission to Further 'Patriotic Education,' The Hill, Sept. 17, 2020.

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