How can students celebrate the school desegregation decision if they don’t know anything about the Constitution or the Supreme Court, asks Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post.
If Brown was about anything, it was about how the language used by America’s founders — words such as “equality” and “freedom” — ultimately proved more powerful than the forces of deep-seated racial prejudice. But if you don’t know who America’s founders were, or what language they used, or why there was racial prejudice in the first place, then the commemoration necessarily becomes a bland celebration of diversity.
Textbooks are written in “a tone of cheerful, sanitized neutrality so overwhelming that it actually renders the prose ahistorical.”
Thus in a section on “Life Behind the Iron Curtain,” middle-schoolers are taught both that “Communist governments in Eastern Europe granted their people few freedoms,” and that “in some ways, Communist governments did take care of their citizens. Food prices were low. Health care was free,” as if all prices really were low and health care really was free in economic systems that depended upon bribery and connections. Thus in a unit on the Industrial Revolution, students are asked how they would react if forced to become child laborers — “Would you join a union, go to school, or run away?” — as if there actually were unions, universal education and places for children to run to in early-19th century Britain . . .
Not only are dead white men absent, writes Applebaum; students don’t learn about slavery either.
It might make someone feel bad.