Letters to the Editor 2019

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To the Editor:

I taught U.S. history in private prep schools for a number of years. I am familiar with standard U.S. history textbooks and can assure you that they are pretty bland. They tend to emphasize 'great men,' war, politics, and not much more.

History is the thoughts and actions of every person who ever lived, so what is taught is necessarily cherry-picked and traditionally heavily slanted towards White males, so why not teach more Black history and feminine history?

Is learning the dates of James Buchanan important? Is it important to know about Sam Austin or Black officer Bass Reeves, one of the most effective U.S. marshals in the nascent Oklahoma territory?

Is it more important to learn about John Deere or J. Earnest Wilkins, a brilliant Black mathematician who worked with Enrico Fermi on the Manhattan Project, but was unable to move to Oak Ridge because he was Black?

The same thing is true of feminine issues, science (read up on Eunice Foote or Henrietta Swan Leavitt), technology, economics, and a host of other things. Those stories simply haven't been told in the traditional U.S. history narrative. I fail to see why we should continue to overlook them just because it gives offense to some people who learned traditional school taught history. Bring those subjects into the sunlight, and racial history is one of the most important.

It's actually racist itself to pretend that racial history is not a legitimate and important part of our history, in fact, as, if not more, important than much of what is usually taught.

Please, let's have no more outrage about teaching kids about their place in society. I always tried to emphasize the socio/economic/gender position of my kids. Because I taught mostly rich kids, I taught endless short lessons on what that privilege of wealth meant in terms of treatment in law and school, dreams, outlooks, clothes, dating, and countless other things. I didn't teach 'White privilege' stuff, but I should have and certainly would today.

Knowing yourself, the society around you, and your place in it should be a principal goal of all education. When and how it should be taught is the only question.

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