The education system can, at times, leave details out of the story of America’s history. Exactly how much work has been done to omit information and how do fix the whitewashing of history today?
The United Daughters Of the Confederacy were founded in 1894 by the children of those who served and gave their support, working to preserve and commemorate sites to honor the Confederacy. This has been done through erecting monuments in honor of Confederate soldiers (according to the encyclopedia virginia.org, about 450 to 700 markers, statues and buildings), maintaining historical records, and they are even credited with perpetuating the “Lost Cause,” myth, which emphasizes the idea that the Civil War was about states rights, even working to ensure that this ideology is in textbooks. This long game of deliberately twisting history can be seen in people’s perception and understanding of what the Civil War was about. A Pew Research center poll from 2011 showed that 48% of people believe that the civil war is about state’s rights, while 38% believed the civil war was primarily about slavery. In a 2019 article by Facing South, Greg Huffman states that it took until 2018 for Texas textbooks standards to be raised, stating that slavery, recession and states rights were equally responsible for the Civil War, after slavery was removed as the main cause of the Civil War in 2010 (instead arguing that it was over states rights and recession).
“As part of a highly publicized revamp of the state social studies curriculum, the Republican-controlled Texas Board of Education removed slavery as the central cause of the Civil War and replaced it with states’ rights and secession, with Republican board member Patricia Hardy calling slavery “an after issue,” Greg Huffman said.
NBC news found that out of the 100 school districts they sent public requests to, there were 86 formal requests to remove library books from last year, which included books like “How to be an anti-racist” by Ibram X. Kendi and Woke: A Young Poet’s Call To Justice” by Mahogany L. Browne, Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood, as well as books like “Gender Queer,” by Maia Kobabe, and Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susa Kuklin. B. The group Round Rock Black Parents association rallied against an effort to ban How to Be an Anti-Racist.
“Taking away that book would have completely whitewashed history, and that’s not what we are for,” Ashley Walker, a member of the Round Rock Black Parents Association.
This continued nit picking of history can be seen with the Texas senators’ legislation that aims to target uncomfortable discussions. Take Senate Bill 3, which was Rep. Bryan Hughes and removes requirements to teach about the civil rights movement, Native American history and the women’s suffrage movement. As pointed out by Rep. Hughes, this is an attempt to avoid including a divisive political agenda.
“Our classrooms should be places for fostering a diverse and fact-based discussion of various perspectives,” said Hughes. “They’re not for planting seeds for a divisive political agenda.”
The question is, what is divisive about teaching students about the racism they will inevitably see and learn about, either through life experience or through reading about it somewhere else later in life? All it does is work to create an echo chamber of history. It creates another generation that is likely to believe the Civil War was mainly about states rights. As Democratic Rep. James Talarico points out, it deprives students of the full (albeit ugly) story of American history.
“The amendments the House added were essential to ensure that we were teaching students all of American history — the good, the bad and the ugly,” the Democratic Rep. James Talarico told Texas Tribune. “They were put in place to ensure that teachers wouldn’t be punished for telling their students the truth. And if we were to strip them, I could see teachers across the state of Texas being silenced,” Talarico said.
So, what can be done about this continued white washing of history? Well, in terms of a book ban, according to Pen, students have the right to take part in non disruptive protests during school days and students can also report a book ban. Aside from that, more parents speaking out against censorship in education could have a serious impact as seen with the Round Rock Black Parents Association. Despite what textbooks and some parents may lead you to believe, there is a rich, complicated tale of history out there, and as much effort as possible should be out into ensuring it does not get swept away just because it is hard to face.