Ethical Dilemmas: Take One

Chauncey DeVega’s article has to be the most biased piece of literature I have read in a long time.  According to DeVega, every conservative in America is a white supremacist racist or an idiot!  DeVega is sure to admit that there are a few “token Republican Negroes,” I wonder what DeVega would say to the descendants of a famous “token Repbulican Negro” like Martin Luther King, Jr.?  I had no idea that every American politician, including our current Black president, has sworn allegiance to a document steeped in white supremacy!? According to DeVega,  white supremacy is the “bleating heart” of the United States Constitution.  DeVega dismisses any view that doesn’t fall right in line with his own.  As for conservatives, Tea Partiers, Republicans, and other members of the New Right (most of whom are old, resentful, racist, frightened, and possessed according to DeVega), they deserve the right to have their views, just like DeVega has the right (ironically because of the very Constitution he so despises) to espouse his distasteful comments about individuals he clearly does care about (even if states otherwise).  As for the Sons of Confederate Veterans, they are striving to maintain cultural ties to their ancestors.  These individuals have the right to celebrate their culture just as the rest of America has the right to celebrate their culture.  I would charge DeVega to read the Constitution, in particular the Bill of Rights which lists rights of all citizens, not just individuals DeVega agrees with.

As for school textbooks, I think every historian should get a hold of a California-based US history book and a Texas-based US history textbook.  During my undergraduate career, I studied secondary education, I compared these textbooks and felt like I was reading about two completely different nations.  Reading a California-based text book, one will realize that diversity is pushed so far that key individuals in history (that happen to be white males) are replaced by less influential individuals simply because they are female or minority.  Reading a Texas-based text book, one might wonder how many “founding fathers” there really are, I for one had never heard of half of them.  California-based text books stress white oppression against all other individuals throughout America’s history, to the point that I wonder how a white student is able to read this history and still maintain a sense of pride in their nation.  Texas-based text books utilize terms like discrimination and division in society rather than slavery as much as possible, to the point that I wonder how an African American student with slave ancestors will be able to truly understand the history of their ancestors in America.  I could go on and on, but these two text book variations are the result of intense politicization of the educational process, a sad reality in an increasingly bureaucratic nation.  Why do we allow politicians, on either side of the aisle, to dictate what our children learn?  Why aren’t historians more involved in the process of curriculum development?  These problems will only be exacerbated with the use of the Common Core Standard.

I found Larry Cebula’s letter to be both hilarious and very sad at the same time.  Anyone reading this article will see the humor in the stories, but the fact that this many misrepresentations are being advanced at one location is disheartening.  I sincerely hope the individuals that received the letter begin to advance a fuller, more accurate explanation of the property they take care of.  Education outside of the classroom is just as important, if not more important, than education inside the classroom.  While I found parts of the return letter to be ironic, I do feel that the author has some fair points.  While we need to teach an accurate history of what happened in America, we also need to create citizens that are able to be proud of the nation they live in.  American children should know that slavery happened, that slavery was terrible, that the Civil War was directly tied to slavery, and that there are still things being done to try and right past wrongs (affirmative action…); but, Americans should also be taught about all of the great things in American history.  Educators and public historians should strive to present history in a manner that is true, but also in a manner that does no purposefully demean the United States time and time again.

Jeff Robinson brings to light very important questions for historians, scientists, politicians, civic leaders, and educators.  Robinson asks “How do we bring both the diversity of opinion and the question of specifically politicized values into our public history work, especially at sites and discourses where energy development, climate change, corporate exploitation, and agricultural shifts are prevalent?  In the case of my hometown, do we side with the activists using history-tactics, among other methods, or do we side with the majority that supports fracking?  Is it possible to belong in the middle?”  As a citizen, I have the right to my own opinion, and I have the right to come to that opinion how I so choose.  As a historian, I feel compelled to look up the facts as well as the general ideas of both sides of the conflict.  As an educator, I feel compelled to present both sides of the issue to my students; moreover, I feel compelled to encourage my students to assess the issue themselves before making an educated decision to side with one side or the other.

After reading about the National Museum of the American Indian and it’s not-so-perfect presentation of Native Americans, I find myself at a standstill.  I truly believe that anytime someone is exposed to something historically and/or culturally significant, this is a wonderful opportunity for discussion and education; therefore, a true learning experience exists in this museum.  I do feel that the museum should work towards to better representing Native Americans as they continue to exist and as they have existed historically.  While most social scientists contend that African Americans are the most oppressed racial group in American society (these social scientists reference slavery, institutionalized segregation, Jim Crow laws and Plessy v. Ferguson) the plight of the Native Americans is even greater than that of the African Americans.  Native Americans have been oppressed physically, spiritually, emotionally, sexually and culturally since the first white settlers “discovered” America.  Moreover, racism, oppression and genocide against Native Americans have been institutionalized for centuries and continue to plague Native American society as well as American society as a whole.  The greatest injustice befalling Native Americans lies in the continuous and overt neglect of the United States government, which has oppressed Native Americans externally and internally.  While the National Museum of the American Indian has great potential, I certainly hope they add to the museum in order to ensure people gain a more accurate understanding of the rich history that surrounds Native Americans.  As an aside, I fully intend on visiting the museum when I am in D.C. this summer.



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