Earthaid3 sends a link to a column by University of Texas journalism professor Robert Jensen, in which he reports on efforts by the Florida legislature to snuff out the teaching of history in a fashion that recalls nothing so much as Stalin’s Soviet Union:
“Florida’s lawmakers are not only prescribing a specific view of US history that must be taught (my favorite among the specific commands in the law is the one about instructing students on “the nature and importance of free enterprise to the United States economy”), but are trying to legislate out of existence any ideas to the contrary. They are not just saying that their history is the best history, but that it is beyond interpretation. In fact, the law attempts to suppress discussion of the very idea that history is interpretation.”
Go see the column, here: http://www.commondreams.org/views06/0717-22.htm
From this column, it appears to me that Florida, under Gov. Jeb Bush, is headed exactly the opposite direction of Texas, using the laws passed under his brother, Gov. George Bush, and contrary to the federal law, the No Child Left Behind Act.
Most troubling is what appears to be an effort to stamp out teaching about discrimination against African Americans and Native Americans.
“Is history “knowable, teachable, and testable?” Certainly people can work hard to know — to develop interpretations of processes and events in history and to understand competing interpretations. We can teach about those views. And students can be tested on their understanding of conflicting constructions of history.
“But the real test is whether Americans can come to terms with not only the grand triumphs but also the profound failures of our history. At stake in that test is not just a grade in a class, but our collective future.”
See this account from “Sean’s Russia Blog”: http://seansrusskiiblog.blogspot.com/2006/06/revisiting-floridas-ban-on-revisionism.html
Readers from Florida: Can you lend details? Is this as bad as it seems?
Generally, if teachers are trained well in history, their students will get the sort of education that leads them to be better citizens, able to pull from history what they need to function in their lives as citizens of their cities, states and nation. Propaganda will be, in the end, self-defeating. The best way to teach history is straight up, warts and all, and invite criticism.
Georges Santayana had it right: Those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it. We teach history to avoid exactly that condemnation. Does Florida’s law help toward that goal, or hinder our efforts to educate our children?
Update: J. L. Bell at Boston 1775 looks at the Florida standards specifically with regard to the Declaration of Independence. It’s not pretty.