Monday, April 03, 2006

Calling All History Teachers.....

I have several different paths I want to travel down this week regarding my posts, however, I received two zingers today in my email that I can only compare to roots that are protruding so profusely from the banks of the path that I have to address them before they cause me to trip.

The second email I will address at a later date because it’s late, and the email is rather long with several attachments. It involves George Washington and the belief that he is responsible for adding the words ”so help me God” to the oath of office. I look forward to delving into the sender’s comments.

The second email comes from someone who found my post George, We Hardly Knew Ye through a google search. They keywords they were using was “George Washington” and “slave owner”. Here is the text of the email “Anonymous” sent to me. I copied and pasted it directly from my email with no corrections or deletions.

I used to wonder how slavery could go on for almost 400 years and not one person in the history books is blamed for it!!! Not to mention who were the people who stole all the land from the Indians and Mexicans. I guess the people who did these things were the ones who wrote the history books, no doubt!! The history books have no input from the slaves or Indians at all. If they did then maybe there would be some truth to them. These devils actually convinced us that they are angels and heroes! They did not even like poor whites...they were an elitist class....I cannot think of anyone in history as we know it more selfish, greedy and evil than the founding fathers. Isn't it funny how Charlton Heston plays a slave in 'The Ten Commandments'and fights the evil Egyptian slaveowners but in real life he supports the exactly same kind of evil men by quoting the founding fathers in the 'Bowling For Columbine' movie. He might be a racist but he is definetly stupid.

I’m considering my own post in response, but as I am just back in the classroom after spring break I need a day to two to readjust to being back in class. I am as they say ‘in mourning’.

So….here’s what I was thinking. I would love for some of you history types and non-history types to weigh in with your opinion here. Everything goes as long as the language is clean and you’re on topic. If you don’t want to attach your name to it then sign in as anonymous.

How would you respond to Anonymous?

9 comments:

The Plant Man said...

I'd tell him bias will always exist and it is the job of the historian to examine different sources. Not an easy problem...Refer him to Hegel, Kant, Humboldt...

Al said...

Honestly? I don't think I'd even bother responding. It's one thing to have a different perspective, but that seems to come from an entirely disjointed universe.

Kevin said...

Thanks for sharing this email. I think there is a great deal going on in this email. There is an element of recent Founding Fathers bashing that has been fashionable of late. However, the author does have a point re: textbooks. Perhaps you can recommend James Loewen's Lies My Teachers Told Me. My research centers on how Americans have chosen to remember the Civil War. If you look at textbooks from the turn of the last century you will find very little on slavery or emancipation. And as late as 1937 W.E.B. Dubois was still responding to people who viewed Reconstruction as a defense of "ignorant" black politicians and white Carpetbaggers. Whatever you decide make sure you give this individual a few references, assuming that he/she is really interested in exploring this topic. Good luck.

DCS said...

I think the plant man and Kevin offer some good suggestions. Kevin's response is particularly on target. Works by John Hope Franklin and Carter G. Woodson are also helpful.

Textbooks aren't perfect yet, but they are much better now than they were when we were in school.

Anonymous makes some very valid issues. Even I have some some touchy points when it comes to the Founding Fathers, but I keep it all in perspective. Hopefully, Anonymous is doing some independent reading/research.

By the way, thanks for adding me to your Blogroll. I'll add you to mine. Great site and resources!

elementaryhistoryteacher said...

Thanks for the comments so far. I really appreciate the suggestions. I'm still working on my response.

Janet said...

Anyone who has been out of school for at least a few years knows that not everything we see in history books is exactly how it happened. There are going to be some liberties taken. Even a biopic on tv can't show everything. Not only is it possible, it's time consuming.

Maybe it's the books used, but I do think some texts are not as cut and dry as anonymous tries to make it seem.

What worries me, however, is the seemed attack on you for being a messenger of such liberties. I could be reading this wrong, but to me, it's one thing to hate the game, another entirely to hate the players.

Polski3 said...

History is in the eyes of the beholder. Take the Rev. War for instance. No, wait, it was not a revolution, it was a revolt by a group of ungrateful spoiled colonists who don't appreciate all that has been done for them by the King....that is, if you are British. Wait! this rebellion must be stopped! If these greedy white people get their way, where will my people be? That is, if you are a Deleware, Shawnee, or other member of a tribe in the Ohio River Valley.

History is perspective. No textbook can provide the complete prosepective....it takes a more specialized telling than a survey type textbook can provide, (unless you want to cart around a 20,000 page textbook)

With the recent protest marches by those who profess to be against Congress and their recent talks about illegal immigration reform, well, these people should wave the flag of Mexico and complain about how Mexico was stolden by los gringos del norte. Hummmmmm, or was it conquered militarily? Kind of like the Spanish took it away from the Aztecs? Kind of like the Aztecs carved their niche out of lands claimed by other tribes.....

I'd ignore that email. How did it get sent to you anyhow?

Princess of the Portable said...

I have a quote on my wall attributed to Napolean, if I remember correctly. It's along the lines of "History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon."

I start every year explaining that everything the kids read and hear has some kind of bias built into it and part of their job as students is to figure out how to sort the bias out from the facts.

Personally, I think that attitude makes teaching history far more interesting. I live in Virginia where all of the founding fathers owned slaves. You can bet that's something we talk about. I try to use primary sources whenever possible during this discussion.

allendrury said...

It is soooo late here but I am still reading and thinking. With that in mind I offer a quick viewpoint that is critical to remember anytime we read/consider the past.

Whenever we talk about politics and history we must put it all in the context of the times. That is not to rationalize anyone's conduct or to white wash history. (No pun intended)It is important to try and see history from the viewpoint of those who lived it. 20/20 is wonderful but we are the only ones to see it from this perspective .