By Steve Woodward
Any credible American history curriculum, if merely chronological, does not “re-write” our history, does not ignore that slavery was abolished despite resistance by Democrats and, today, is universally denounced as immoral, or, as Donna Brazile observes in a July 2 Wall Street Journal op-ed (“Don’t Ban Critical Race Instruction”) does not cast doubt upon but highlights “how much we’ve progressed” as a nation.
Yet Ms. Brazile, a former Democratic National Committee chair and, currently, an ABC News commentator, tries to advance the allegation that new state laws reining in the hijacking of classroom instruction seek to “limit what students can be taught about American history”. Entirely false. The nationwide push-back on race-based lesson plans is inspired by parents who reject a narrative spun by teachers, pre-wired by higher education to embrace it. The narrative subverts our complex “history”.
It is rooted in critical social justice tenets, and informs that everything comprising American society is inherently racist, and that said racism is sustained, knowingly or unknowingly, by white citizens from childhood to the grave. If there is, in fact, re-writing of our history afoot, this is it. It also is a misrepresentation of our present. (Pre-pandemic, record low unemployment numbers among black and Hispanic citizens were reported monthly).
The American story unfolds in such a way that slavery and racism never were going to survive. A Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, stood firm in opposition to 19th century Democrats, who championed slavery and were willing to go to war to preserve it. One hundred years after Republicans ended slavery, Democrats opposed a landmark Civil Rights Act by staging a 60-day filibuster. Southern Democrats ultimately failed to kill the bill in the Senate. And here we are today, the least racist nation in the world.
But do our kids know that, or will they grow up believing quite the opposite? The North Carolina State Board of Education on July 7 voted 7-3 to approve the “unpacking”of social studies standards it approved last February. The cryptic process of “unpacking” is merely an un-peeling of the onion layers that conceal the intent of these “new standards” for instruction. The WRAL.com education reporter was deliberate in her description of the changes in the most vague terms imaginable:
“The new standards differ from the old standards largely by asking students to learn more diverse perspectives of history and understand history and contemporary society through more lenses,” wrote Emily Walkenhorst.
An examination of 53 pages of guidance on American history found classroom objectives that include: teaching that Capitalism operates at the expense of some who are systemically denied its economic rewards; examining how slavery, xenophobia, disenfranchisement and intolerance have affected individual and group perspectives of themselves as Americans; discussing how oppression impacted the sense of identity held by various groups (i.e., women, immigrants, Native Americans, African Americans, etc.). These seeds will sow racial tension among children in record time.
The Moore County Board of Education on July 12 will convene to vote on a policy proposal to summarily ban the state’s so-called Critical Race Theory standards (there is nothing theoretical about them). It remains to be seen whether, if passed, this will be a symbolic gesture or a defiant rejection of overtly progressive education. The standards will still be out there; teachers are afforded tremendous leeway when planning lessons. Therein lies the problem.
Our great American story includes a glorious chapter detailing how our Founding Fathers, who, though flawed because they were human, formed a nation capable of advancing beyond the social norms of their times. A proper education would ingrain this achievement in every student.