Last week Donald Trump signed an executive order to develop a patriotic curriculum to be taught in schools. He says that current curriculum teach a twisted web of lies about racism and that it’s abusive to children. Trump wants to focus on feel good pro American, patriotic history. In other words he wants American education to be pro White.
I would say that I received a patriotic education. I began kindergarten in 1980 in a public school in a suburb of Detroit. While I was an elementary school student we stood for the Pledge of Allegiance and sung a patriotic song with our hands over our hearts every morning. I remained in the same school system until I graduated the local high school in 1993.
I remember being taught in the first grade about the first Thanksgiving and how the Pilgrims and Indians were friends. Half of the class dressed up as Pilgrims the other as Indians. We made our costumes and ate soup that the teacher made for us. I was a Pilgrim.
I am old enough to remember getting a day off from school for Christopher Columbus Day during my elementary school years. We were taught that he discovered America. I don’t remember the indigenous people of America being mentioned at all.
The only Black author I studied in literature classes was Richard Wright. Besides that the other literature we studied came from White authors a few of which had Black characters in their stories such as “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Huck Finn”. There were Black history lessons but I would call them superficial.
After graduating high school I attended a public university and earned a BA in 1997. I earned a BA from a different university in 2003 and I earned an MLA in 2010. None of my schools were HBCUs. I would describe my education as White centered. My textbooks were most likely all written by White scholars with Eurocentric viewpoints. The exception would be the African American history class I took as an undergrad.
But even when you read the history that White people wrote they come across as stubbornly racist, greedy, selfish and savagely violent. In their stories where they think of themselves as the heroes they come across as sociopaths.
You can’t sweeten up American history. There is no way to clean up The Middle Passage. You can’t make The Trail of Tears a feel good story. Manifest Destiny was a White supremacist ideal and that occurred to me in school as I read it at a young age. You can’t explain away the part of the Constitution that stated that Black people were 5/8 of a human being.
You have to act like a lot of American history didn’t happen or you have to fabricate lies in order to make it sound like the US is a racially equitable society. Unfortunately, even current events continue to tell a very unflattering story of America and the way it treats many of its citizens.
I think that Trump’s reasons for pushing a pro American agenda is self serving. I anticipate that Trump and his disciples will not be treated kindly by history. Trump wants to make any discussion of racism more taboo than it already is. The only way they will be seen in a positive light is if criticism of an American president is prohibited. That’s a First Amendment violation.
I don’t resent my patriotic education. It is what it is. White people conquered North America and my ancestors were their prisoners. That’s how things work. The conquerors dictate the history.
Growing up Black in a Eurocentric educational system made me a critical thinker and a bit of a rebel which is what Donnie wants to avoid. It made me question things since I didn’t identify with most of America’s heroes. I believe my White centered education actually affirmed a lot of positive things for me about being Black American. It helped that I didn’t see myself as a part of the cruel American regime.
I think it’s a positive thing to teach children respect and to love their country. I grew up feeling proud to be American even though my race has been subjected to oppression, violence and hatred. There isn’t another country that I can claim.
I believe most Americans grew up with a sense of national pride which is why we are all appalled and heartbroken about the current political climate. I don’t think it’s wrong to raise children with ideals. They can figure out that institutions we look up to are far from perfect. It’s a part of growing up and when you’re grown it’s your turn to try and improve them.
My public education did what a public school education should do. I became literate, learned some basic historical and geographical facts and gained basic math skills. I also learned to research information which is very important. Once a student graduates high school it is up to them to continue seek knowledge and process it critically. If parents instill a child with a sense of self they will learn how it all relates to them and they will develop their own point of view.
Education in America can’t get anymore patriotic and pro White than it has been. The only way to make it more pro White is to omit most of the history and just start lying. Trump’s plan will fail because too much is already documented about this country unless he is planning to burn books and destroy history like in “Fahrenheit 451”. I won’t be surprised if that is the real plan.