They Did This On Purpose

Read this and think about what you learned about history, and why: 

Here’s another example: Teenagers in both states will learn about the Harlem Renaissance and debates about the movement’s impact on African-American life.

But Texas students will read that some critics “dismissed the quality of literature produced.”

I get frustrated day after day after day listening to Our Thought Leaders lamenting how divided we “have become” and how polarized “things are” like a storm just moved in and nobody knows why. Children for decades have been deliberately taught different stories, for a very specific reason, and the article presents this as if that reason doesn’t exist.

California and Texas textbooks sometimes offer different explanations for white backlash to black advancement after the Civil War, from Reconstruction to housing discrimination in the 20th century.

Southern whites resisted Reconstruction, according to a McGraw-Hill textbook, because they “did not want African-Americans to have more rights.” But the Texas edition offers an additional reason: Reforms cost money, and that meant higher taxes.

Whole paragraphs on redlining and restrictive deeds appear only in the California editions of textbooks, partly as a result of different state standards. Texas’ social studies guidelines do not mention housing discrimination at all.

It’s as if “discrimination exists” and “no, reverse racism does” are two competing ideas with no way to prove the fact of one or the other. Whites were just scared of their taxes paying for black people? Sure, okay, that certainly seems to be what’s happening here:

reconstruction nast

No racial discrimination there, at all. Nothing irrational about that resistance to black political power.

If you accept that “both sides” want their version of history taught because they both benefit from it, you have to outline what those benefits are. The right benefits electorally and financially from actively discriminating in housing, employment, voting rights, and any number of a thousand other areas, and has for decades. Their version of history supports an ideology that actively prevents low-income people and non-whites from accessing huge swaths of American life.

That is a CONSEQUENCE of their actions. That is a result that can be seen and measured, a direct outcome of the story they tell.

For this to be equivalent to the left’s desire to, say, honestly describe what happened to Native Americans when whitey showed up, there would have to be an ongoing and systemic effort to prevent white people from gaining rights that were historically given to non-whites. That’s … not occurring, not even in socialist California. I know we joke all the time about how we need to stop electing white people but as far as I know no one’s actually trying to make that the case.

That there is the PERCEPTION that any uplift to non-whites, non-straights, non-Christians comes at the expense of all you nice Land Rovering ladies at book club is not anybody’s problem but yours, and it’s certainly not an argument to teach history differently, Jesus tits.

Texas policymakers feel strongly about giving students a positive view of the American economy; since 1995, state law has required that high school economics courses offer an “emphasis on the free enterprise system and its benefits.” That emphasis seems to have made its way into the history curriculum as well.

California’s curriculum materials, by contrast, sometimes read like a brief from a Bernie Sanders rally. “The yawning gap between the haves and have-nots and what is to be done about it is one of the great questions of this time,” says the state’s 2016 social studies framework.

Bernie Sanders would slap that line right out of his own mouth, it’s so tame, and I’m far from a Bernie stan. What is the point of that dig? Tee hee, so silly and communist, the idea that people talk about inequality.

We’re saying there are two versions of this story, and one of them is “everything is GREAT” and another is “let’s think about stuff.” Those aren’t even competing ideas, much less competing on equal ground.

Again, who benefits from the narrative that the American economy is OMG BESTEST EVARR!11!? The people in power, who are generally Republican, and oppose taxes on corporations, and want you to believe that the reason there ain’t no raises coming this year is that they just can’t afford it.

We are not teaching two different versions of history because we’re just so horrifically divided. We are horrifically divided because there is a concerted effort to paint a picture of American history that devalues certain voices, to its distinct financial and political benefit. Division hasn’t HAPPENED. It’s been done, and we see who’s made out like bandits, and who’s suffered.

A.

2 thoughts on “They Did This On Purpose

  1. Mitchell Nussbaum says:

    One interesting difference between the Texas and California discussions of the Harlem Renaissance: the California version includes a page of poems by Langston Hughes. The Texas version replaces the poems with “assessment” questions. I wonder why; could this have anything to do with Hughes’ politics?

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  2. Is the Pope Catholic?

    For serious, Langston Hughes is the sort of poet that the Texas Lege of ’95 (who authorized these pro-capitalism anti-truth “standards” would love to … disappear.

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