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Life is Not Always Easy

May 20th, 2008 | by Dr. Forbush |

It wasn’t too long ago that I heard people, mainly conservatives, complaining that the textbooks used in the schools were too biased. Many of these people were opposed to the idea that evolution should be considered as even a remote explanation for the why we have life on this planet in the current form. But, science wasn’t the only subject considered biased by these people. Sometimes references in American history textbooks to the plight of the poor Native Americans, former slaves or unfavorable immigrant groups would get slammed for being biased - or sometimes even “un-American.”

The truth is that history is written by the winners and winners do not normally identify with the plight of those they oppose. But, even more often history is re-written by the new winners every time we make social, political and economic progress. The plantation owners in the rural south wouldn’t even consider commenting on the contributions of their slaves to economy of the south. But, that cheap labor kept the cost of agriculture low for all of the American markets. But, as the former slaves and their families gradually acquired civil rights and the political power that comes with those rights their history began to reflect that new power.

In the United States we often proclaim freedom and liberty as virtues sought by us for all of us. But, when we think of “us” we don’t always see the entire community of the United States as equally deserving of those rights. No institution better demonstrates equality than the military. When you and four of your buddies are out there in harms way everyone understands that bullets do not discriminate. So, it wasn’t surprising that when the vets came home from World War II and traveled the country meeting up with their friends from the military that they were shocked by the discrimination observed around the country. Jack Kerouac describes this poignantly in “On the Road.” These new battles erupted at home and began to bring more social change to America through out the 1960s.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that history would be rewritten again to reflect the brilliance of the civil rights movement and the grand social change resulting from the 1960s. Of course there is only so much room in any textbook and when some points are highlighted then other points are neglected. Sometimes bias comes from these facts alone. Sometimes authors take the initiative to trumpet additional points as well. The result often results in more bias.

History is the telling of not just one story, but a collection of interconnected stories. When two general face each other in battle, they both have their own personal observation, skills and bias brought into the conflict. They each see the other as a dangerous nemesis. History will normally only tell the story of the victor, sprinkled in with the weaknesses of the loser. When the battle began they both had strengths and weaknesses, but history doesn’t record it all. But, when the kin of the loosing general are vindicated on that day of sweet revenge, history records a new story, retelling the misfortune of the old battle story with a new twist.

It shouldn’t be surprising to me that my kids have brought home “new” textbooks that have once again rewritten history.

My daughter is currently taking a High School American History class. Her textbook has been written by several members of the Hoover Institution. When we read her book we now learn the evils of Socialism that have been lurking around every corner of American society. We now know the evils of unions and laborers in general. It has been clarified for me the FDR practically destroyed the country with the New Deal. If only he had left Hoover’s economics to lead us the Great Depression would have only been a small recession. It is truly amazing what they are teaching our kids now days. The irony to this story is seen in an included graph of unemployment from 1925 to 1945 that disproves many of these arguments when you line up the New Deal programs and the results.

Philosophically it makes sense that the Reagan years would have some fall out like this. In the long run we will end up with students being educated with these exaggerated biases to counteract the exaggerated biases from earlier books. It also makes me sad to see this back and forth bickering that polarizes the country. Many students take what they hear in school as fact and don’t think about it. Chances are that there will be many people who believe that unions are bad and the New Deal practically destroyed the country as a simple result of using this textbook. They won’t be taught that there were arguments on both sides of these issues. They will be left with the current winners point of view. Ten years from now we will once again have new textbooks. The current students will be long graduated and left with the biased views that they were taught. The question becomes, what will those new textbooks teach our children? Will they continue to teach of the evils of unions and the New Deal? Or, will they teach us how FDR, our physically handicapped president was a hero that triumphed over adversity in so many different ways?

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Don’t forget what Stephen Colbert said, “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

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  1. 3 Responses to “Life is Not Always Easy”

  2. By Dusty on May 20, 2008 | Reply

    When my son was school-age, I would ask him every day what he learned. Then, I would make the poor kid sit there while I gave him my version of that part of history.

    It’s great that you take an active interest in what they are teaching your children. Far too many do not.

  3. By Paul Merda on May 20, 2008 | Reply

    My daughter is in the 1st grade and I find myself already trying to clear her head of nonsense they are trying to teach her…

  4. By rube cretin on May 21, 2008 | Reply

    just got back from my mailbox and a short discussion with a high school teacher neighbor. The guy is frigging clueless to what has and is going on. I hope the parents of the kids he is teaching economics and American history are as informed as you. I would fire this guy in a moment if he shares with his students what he just shared with me. We are fuc…

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