Monday, October 24, 2022


I taught required U.S. History classes every one of my thirty-six years as a public school teacher. My first teaching job was in the 1968-69 school year. I retired in 2005. Today FAIR published "How honest American history can cultivate gratitude." I agree with it.
Attending public schools in the 1970s and 80s, my teachers had no problem managing the dual task of celebrating what was great in American history and pointing out its moral failures. We were taught to appreciate the brilliance of the Founding Fathers, the courage of our fellow citizens, and America’s many contributions to the world. At the same time, our teachers pulled no punches on America’s moral failures. We learned about slavery, the Trail of Tears, the women’s suffrage movement, company stores, the Sacco and Vanzetti Trial, the Ku Klux Klan, Japanese Internment Camps, the Red Scare, Jim Crow—all by the end of ninth grade! ....

Today, however, many teachers stake out the opposite extreme, reducing American history to a zero-sum power struggle between “the oppressed” and “the oppressors.” Through this lens, the story of race relations in American history becomes simply white folks subjugating non-white folks. Very often, this is not presented as part of our story, but the essence of it. America is defined by various systems of oppression that, according to some, are a permanent fixture of our society.

This new narrative renders gratitude impossible and only feeds resentment and despair. Those who declared principles of freedom, fought for them, risked their lives for them, and even died for them—men and women of many races—are expurgated from our national memory. They are to be removed from places of honor when we find them deficient in some respect. And they will always be found deficient. Gratitude for the Founding Fathers becomes less than pedestrian; it is the honoring of contemptible people. ....

A different narrative, which appears more honest, accurate, critical, and helpful, is the same one that Martin Luther King Jr. embraced. With regard to race, he taught, “The American people are infected with racism—that is the peril. Paradoxically, they are also infected with democratic ideals—that is the hope. While doing wrong, they have the potential to do right.”

King had no trouble pointing out the failures of his fellow citizens, but he was also adept at recognizing their virtue. This was the balanced narrative I grew up with: imperfect people were slowly making progress in living up to the ideals they set for themselves. .... (more)
Jeffrey K. Mann, "How honest American history can cultivate gratitude," FAIR, Oct. 24, 2022.

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