Education – then and now

Commentary

Then: Conquistadors were heroes; Now: Racism isn’t systemic; it’s just a bunch of individual racists.

I recently posted a column, “The revelations of a road trip,” which was sub-headed, “How a drive in Florida reminded me of what I learned and didn’t learn in school.” You can read the column here: https://around-the-block.com/2021/06/04/the-revelations-of-a-road-trip/.

Among the comments I received was this one from a reader named Laura who wrote,

I was fortunate to have had a mother who majored in history in Brooklyn College,. Daughter of immigrants, both of whom lost family members in the Holocaust, my family was very vocal about the injustices before, during, and after the Civil War, and many horrifying stories of the Holocaust from the few letters they received before hearing nothing.  My maternal grandfather went to Poland to get his parents and sister out.  They refused to go, and it haunted him for the rest of his life.  My father, born in Warsaw, was somehow politically active, and strangely secretive about it.  So I grew up knowing more than most of my teachers, which displeased them greatly, since I often chose to reeducate them… another story.  I am grateful to say that our sons were fairly vocal about the truths of history.

I was taken by Laura’s words and the fact that she, unlike many of us, learned more about the history that was either covered up or mis-taught in my school during the ’50’s. Unfortunately, much of what she learned was the result of a family history of suffering and tragedy.

Laura ended her comments with a challenge: “So, what are your suggestions as to what we might do to further right the written and taught wrongs?” Since then, I’ve been thinking about how to take on her challenge.

I spoke to a few of my great-nieces and nephews about what they learned or are learning. Clearly the Holocaust is part of the curriculum in the schools they attended. (Although two years ago, the principal of one of the largest high schools in Boca Raton was fired for saying, that (Holocaust) lessons are “not forced upon individuals as we all have the same rights but not all the same beliefs.” as if the Holocaust was a “belief.” And at least one of my great-nephews told me he had learned that the Spanish explorers whom my generation were taught to revere for their courageous exploits were, in fact, proselytizing, genocidal, disease-spreading “conquerors” (the literal translation of “conquistador”) out for personal fame, glory and riches. (Actually, not his exact words…more like my interpretation of his words).

So, do I feel better? Has the gap in my early education been filled by what’s being taught in American schools now? Have we finally gotten back on track, teaching our youth the truth, unencumbered by prejudice and cover-ups?

And then this (from The Washington Post):

Education

In push against ‘indoctrination,’ DeSantis mandates surveys of Florida college students’ beliefs

After banning public schools from teaching “critical race theory” two weeks ago, Florida is reshaping civics lessons and addressing what its governor says parents worry about when they send their children to college — indoctrination.

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) says he is concerned about the free flow of ideas on campus and whether higher education stifles free speech from conservatives. Under a law he signed Tuesday, which will take effect July 1, public universities must assess “viewpoint diversity” on campus each year through a survey developed by the State Board of Education, a requirement that a free-speech expert predicted as a model for other conservative-led states.

“We want our universities to be focused on critical thinking and academic rigor. We do not want them as basically hotbeds for stale ideology,” DeSantis said at a news conference Tuesday. “That’s not worth tax dollars and not something we’re going to be supporting moving forward. Please be aware, I’m not picking on my favorite(!) governor here; that’s actually too easy. A similar law was also signed by the GOP governor of red Indiana.

And, take a look at this map in which some sort of ban on teaching critical race theory or other right-wing third-rail social issues has either been introduced or enacted. Virtually every act has been sponsored by a GOP official.

Now, there’s not enough space in this column for a full exploration of the pros and cons of critical race theory and whether racism is systemic (I think it is) or just demonstrated by individual people with prejudices (yes, like the KKK, just a bunch of individual people with prejudices). But whatever you call it, doesn’t it make sense to teach our students that there is a distinct possibility that racial inequality is embedded in the founding of, and in the structures of our society and our nation? Critics call it divisive. I agree; it is divisive. Divisive because it exposes issues that a large segment of our population believes, and virtually all elected politicians on the right don’t want us to know but would rather bury, than “divide” us.

As written in 1995 in “Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement,” this way of thinking “compels us to confront critically the most explosive issue in American civilization: the historical centrality and complicity of law in upholding white supremacy.” And when you critically confront the issues, some people. almost entirely on the right, don’t want to hear about it.

Compelling us to confront issues critically…you know, THINK, is not a bad idea. Shouldn’t our students be given the opportunity to confront the issues, think about them and draw their own conclusions?

Divisiveness is the right’s smokescreen. What they’re really afraid of is losing their base and losing their cozy jobs. They’re afraid of the truth, and letting our students in on that truth. Can you imagine their electoral prospects if these kids were taught the truth and then started thinking and voting that truth?

Let me close with this astonishing essay, from which the “Whitewashed Elephant” image at the head of this column was taken.

From what I gather about critical race theory, it serves to tell the inner truth about race in our country’s history. This obscure academic concept is more complicated than that, but conservatives are turning the perceived threat of CRT into the next boogeyman to thwart any discussion of American racial history in schools.

Never mind for now the confusion of CRT.

The bigger question: Why shouldn’t we tell the truth about American history? Don’t sugarcoat it. Don’t whitewash the elephant in the room. Give it to us straight.

Who can’t handle the truth?

Alabama lawmakers, of course. No surprise. Many of the same still think Trump won the election. State Rep. Chris Pringle (R-Mobile), was in such a hurry to ban CRT he pre-filed the bill before he even knew what it was!

by J.D. Crowe

So what’s astonishing about this piece? It was published on a site called AL.com (AL = Alabama). Yes, Toto, there is hope ’cause this doesn’t sound like we’re in Alabama anymore!

Published by Ted Block

Ted Block is a veteran “Mad Man,” having spent 45+ years in the advertising industry. During his career, he was media director of several advertising agencies, including Benton & Bowles in New York and Foote, Cone and Belding in San Francisco; account management director on clients as varied as Clorox, Levi’s and the California Raisin Advisory Board (yes, Ted was responsible for the California Dancing Raisins campaign); and regional director for Asia based in Tokyo for Foote, Cone where he was also the founding president of FCB’s Japanese operations. Ted holds a Bachelor’s degree in communications from Queens College and, before starting in advertising, served on active duty as an officer on USS McCloy (DE-1038) in the U.S. Navy.

7 thoughts on “Education – then and now

  1. Thanks Ted, I posted it to my FB page so that maybe some of my bigoted friends will read it and learn something.

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  2. Excellent, Excellent I am so upset about the hiring on college campuses, we can talk more tomorrow 😱

    Sent from my iPad

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  3. Once again the Republican Party is running on Cultural Agendas. They don’t talk about what they can do for all Americans because of course they don’t intend to do anything for the electorate. Their followers have drunk the Kool-Ade. There is no reasoning with these people. Fox goes on a 1300 story rampage about CRT and they believe it. No questioning or fact checking. I just fear for this country. The Q electorate still believe the Big Lie. They are gearing up for Trump’s inauguration in August. The chatter on the conspiracy internet is that they are finally going to slaughter those who stole the election. Then DeSantis goes and signs fascist legislation about the Florida Universities. Doesn’t look good to me.

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    1. Eileen, please do me a favor. Before you read my posts, take your BP. Take again after reading. Let me know the results. Based on those readings I’d like you to text me right before you read so, if necessary, I’ll have a cardiologist on call. LOL!

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  4. “ The uncontested absurdities of today are the accepted slogans of tomorrow. They come to be accepted by degrees, by dint of constant pressure on one side and constant retreat on the other – until one day when they are suddenly declared to be the country’s official ideology.”
    ~Ayn Rand

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  5. Interesting essay and interesting thoughts.
    Without getting into CRT, white supremacy, unconscious bias, and all of that sort of stuff which is being touted, the thing I found interesting is the teaching of actual history.
    The phrase, ‘History is written by the victors’ is apt, and in that history is never totally accurate.
    It is the questioning of history without resorting to entrenched beliefs that allows for a clearer understanding of history.
    Take for instance that to ‘push’ Germany to agree to the terms of Versailles food shipments were blocked to Germany and as a result thousands starved to death and yet that is rarely mentioned.
    I do not agree with some of your premises yet they do hold relevance.
    I suppose what is important is not how these things are written, but how they are promoted in support of an agenda. When something is perverted to push a cause then something is lost in the pursuits of that cause.

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