Archive - Sep 2014


September 28th

Cities and Hills

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Memo to Texas and Republicans: WE WERE DUMB.

When Winston Churchill remarked that history is written by the victors, I'm pretty sure he meant the winning side in great historical moments. I'm pretty sure he didn't mean the elections of the Texas board of education. Clearly, Winston Churchill was short-sighted.

Before we get into the specifics of the problem, let's get to the core of the problem, as exemplified so eloquently by Texas Board of Ed member and Democrat Marisa Perez. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"I think we need to teach history as it happened and not change it."

I trust you see the problem here. History "as it happened" is not set in stone. You have to change it as new information comes along or new perspectives are discovered. And therein lies the rub.

The College Board has changed the AP History exam based on new information and new perspectives. They get to do that because, well, they administer the AP program and the AP test. This has made people with, shall we say, a vested interest in the old perspective and a general disdain for new information cranky. You know, like the Republican National Committee, who are upset over what they call a "radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation's history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects."

Anyone who's been paying attention to anything since we first realized Columbus was in fact a genocidal asshole knows what's going on here. American history has always involved a great deal of myth-making, and there are way too many people in this country think their myths don't stink.

Case in point, this objection from... oh, who cares which group they are. You know the usual idiots.

"Instead of striving to build a 'City upon a Hill,' as generations of students have been taught, the colonists are portrayed as bigots who developed 'a rigid racial hierarchy' that was in turn derived from 'a strong belief in British racial and cultural superiority,' The new Framework continues its theme of oppression and conflict by reinterpreting Manifest Destiny from a belief that America had a mission to spread democracy and new technologies across the continent to something that 'was built on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority.'"

Holy shit. You want to talk some radical revisionism, check out that whitewashing, in every possible sense of the word, of "manifest destiny". I'm pretty sure we didn't kill natives and start a war with Mexico because we were desperate to get them voting and iPads.

Even assuming the first settlers were trying to build a "city upon a hill", which is an explicit Biblical reference and thus carries with it certain overtones of, well, white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority, there's no denying that city wasn't built on rock and roll, it was built on blood and bones. But we can't say that, because then American culture wouldn't be the best culture. So get your notions of American cultural superiority out of our classrooms!

Anyway, Texas can't do anything about the test itself, but they can ensure that Texas AP History classes won't teach to it, which is the path they're taking. Hopefully, Texas' AP History students will be smarter than their Board of Education and get the information through other channels. That way, they can learn history as it happened, even when how it happened changes.