jump to navigation

California Shows Us How Not To Teach History (Washington Examiner) August 6, 2019

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds.

Former President Jimmy Carter famously said, “Whatever starts in California unfortunately has an inclination to spread.” If that’s true, then beware the California Board of Education’s newly drafted “Model Ethnic Studies Curriculum” and hope that it is not coming soon to a school near you.

Assembly Bill 2016, signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown, required the state board to adopt a model ethnic studies curriculum and, boy (oops, can’t say that, especially since I’m a “cisgender” male) is it doing so. It has posted a draft for comment and it sets a new standard for over-the-top jargon and political correctness.

Before coming to its direct attacks on capitalism and imperialism, the draft celebrates its own high purpose by defining ethnic studies as the “xdisciplinary [I don’t think that’s a typo, but I’m not sure], loving, and critical praxis of holistic humanity as racial justice.” At least we know what we’re about here. Then, standing against all that sunshine and light are the boogeypersons of “power structures and forms of oppression.

Now students and teachers will not need to reach their own conclusions about good and evil in this narrative: They’re told right up front.

In order to do this, we are invited to enter an Alice in Wonderland world and simply redefine the terms we don’t like. So the draft favors a new spelling of “history” as “herstory” and “women” should be “womxn.” There is no longer an achievement gap in education; rather it is an opportunity gap, or, better yet, an educational debt that has not yet been properly paid but thanks to the experts in Sacramento it supposedly will be now.

Now, with a new vocabulary, we can get down to the real business at hand. Importantly, an ethnic studies program should “critique empire and its relationship to white supremacy, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism and other forms of power and oppression at the intersections of our society.” Once we have enabled students to do this, we can help them “build new possibilities for post-imperial life.” After all, “ethnic studies empowers students to love themselves and their communities.” By the way, any white teacher better “begin the process of ‘constructively situating’ oneself in relation to ethnic studies.”

As you can see, the problems with how we teach American history have only begun. We have already been doing it poorly, with the most recent national test results showing only 18% of eighth graders “proficient” or better in the subject. STEM (science, math, engineering and technology) has become the rage in education, while we have lost our minds as far as history goes.

But U.S. history is not only taught poorly, it has become a political football to be kicked around, not a subject to be learned. Academics and politicians want to rewrite our history, apologize for it, erase it, take it down, or cover it over—anything but what we should be doing, which is learning from it. Yes, throughout our history, mistakes were made, many very serious ones. But in a classroom, those are learning opportunities. Essentially, the kind of people who draft something like this Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum are doing their own generational therapy, not figuring out how today’s and tomorrow’s students can best learn.

Let presidential candidates take their shots at capitalism if they wish. Let professors write their scholarly articles about oppression and social movements. But let students learn our history, unslanted, warts and all, and let them draw their own conclusions. Children will pay a high price for “lawnmower” parents and official do-gooders who want to mow down every possible obstacle, barrier, or source of discomfort in a child’s path so much that they never learn how to deal with difficulties. Moreover, society will pay an even higher price for a generation that has been taught to view their own country as a land of imperialists and oppressors.

David Davenport is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is the co-author with Gordon Lloyd, of How Public Policy Became War, published May 7.

To view the column at the Washington Examiner:


%d bloggers like this: