By Andrew Pillow
Being a social studies teacher is never easy. But that job has become a lot more difficult over the past few months. In other subjects, aside from science, students aren’t constantly bombarded with information that runs contrary to what they are taught in school. Over the last couple of months, I have found myself on the front lines against flat-earth ideas, fake news stories, and ridiculous conspiracy theories. None of these are ideas that they have learned in school but as the foremost current events and history expert in their lives, it falls upon me to dispel them.
The latest battle I’m fighting: the Revisionist history from the Trump administration. A quick recap of the false history coming out of the Whitehouse.
Sean Spicer: “Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons”.
You could make an argument that Hitler is actually MOST known for using chemical weapons.
Ben Carson: African slaves were “immigrants”.
Someone forced to come to a new country as a slave does not meet the standard definition of an “immigrant” and we typically don’t reference them that way.
Betsy DeVos: Historically Black Colleges were “pioneers of school choice”
HBCUs were literally created as a compromise so white schools could avoid having to integrate. They were the only schools in the area that would educate blacks thus where they had to go. The opposite of choice
Historians almost universally agree that the civil war was primarily fought over slavery. This statement is clearly pushing the controversial “lost cause” narrative that minimizes the role of slavery in the war.
These statements all vary from wrong to blatantly false. It’s not unprecedented for a politician to lie. But typically, those lies revolve around things like voting records or their previous controversial statements. Not well established, agreed upon, historical facts. This is problematic because students hear these things. It is very difficult to explain to a middle schooler why the highest office in the land would blatantly lie about something. Unfortunately, I’m not always even able to convince them that they did and they continue to believe what they heard them say. Hell, a good portion of my kids believed the earth was flat for a month last semester because of Kyrie Irving. So, imagine the damage that can be inflicted by multiple authority figures spreading falsehoods at once.
And… there is an elephant in the room. All of these historical lies seem to have a disturbing trend. The dominant trend appears to be downplaying the role of racism in history.
We don’t know if this is a trend or theme that this administration is purposely pushing. However, it cannot go unaddressed that top-level officials continue to cite and in some cases even create controversial revisionist narratives that center around racism or the lack thereof. Given that this administration already has race perception problems, they would be wise to leave it to the teachers to teach history.