The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is the word lies. There is a lot I could write on this topic (for instance, most of what happened at the RNC these last four days). But I was just made aware of a John Oliver (I love this guy!!) show from a few weeks ago that is very relevant in the wake of the recent tragic events in Kenosha, Wisconsin and the protests and looting that have been going on all summer around the country. Why is this happening? Why is there so much racial unrest? Why are they saying black lives matter – don’t all lives matter? Everyone has an opinion, but too often their opinion is based on ignorance or downright lies.
A few weeks ago – around the time John Lewis died – John Oliver on his show Last Week Tonight talked about how Americans learn history wrong. Maybe it has gotten better, but there are still some (any is too many) white people around who say stupid stuff like, “Slavery was bad, but those people were lucky to come to a great place like America.” (Meaning being a slave here was better than living free in African societies.) Textbooks for young children dumb down history, saying things like the colonists “brought slaves with them to help with farm work and chores.”
“Washington freed his slaves” is another myth. Instead of teaching kids lies like George Washington chopped down a cherry tree and then confessed to his father, saying, “I cannot tell a lie,” why can’t we teach kids that yes, Washington was the ‘father of our country’ and he should be honored for being the first president, but he also OWNED SLAVES and he DID NOT free them when he was president (or afterward, either)! I admit, I never learned a single negative fact about Christopher Columbus or George Washington until I got to college. Why can’t students learn both the positive and the negative – i.e. the FACTS about these historical figures?
Well, don’t we need heroes? Yes, but kids, even elementary students, can understand that people can be both good and bad. Acts of heroism don’t erase the rest of a hero’s life. I’m not dissing heroes. I just think we need to be honest. And although any history teacher knows that one year in high school is not enough time to teach all of American history, we shouldn’t ignore important events that are more convenient to ignore than to teach our students. (American history should be taught for at least two years, or part of it every year.)
As a result, many Americans graduate from high school ignorant about American history (and forget about world history). We need to help students understand why racism continues to survive. We need to connect the past to the present, help our students make the connections, so they can understand what is happening now.
This is an excellent video that is worth spending the 28+ minutes to watch.
I need to say here that I do not necessarily approve of taking down statues of people like George Washington. But the idea of the so-called “cancel culture” is a topic for another post.