Every Curriculum is IdeologicalRoundup
tags: teaching history, Donald Trump, 1776 commission
Peter Smagorinsky is a University of Georgia Distinguished Research Professor of English Education, Emeritus, Department of Language and Literacy Education (English Education). He taught high school for 14 years and then spent more than 30 years in university teacher education programs.
These ideological times have produced a revived interest in how school is taught. Among the most contentious issues is the teaching of history.
On Day 1 of his administration, President Joe Biden removed all traces of a curriculum sponsored by President Donald J. Trump, the 1776 Curriculum. Its website describes it as the work of “a nonpartisan and intellectually diverse alliance of writers, thinkers, and activists focused on solutions to our country’s greatest challenges in education, culture, and upward mobility. . . . We are building a positive movement in response to the overwhelming narratives of oppression, grievance and ignorance to America’s history — and its promise for the future.”
To President Trump, this curriculum promotes patriotism by emphasizing the positive and ignoring the negative. It explicitly positions itself against the 1619 Project, The New York Times curriculum centered on the role of slavery in shaping U.S. history. The 1776 Curriculum describes the 1619 Project as “introducing revisionist history about race in America into classrooms across the nation.” African American contributor Dr. Carol Swain explicitly questions the notion of white privilege, arguing that Critical Race Theory has had a “toxic, destructive impact on America” in its emphasis on race-based societal inequity.
The role of race has surfaced in other disputes about teaching U.S. History, either through the curriculum or through various forms of symbolism. For instance, a recent AJC Get Schooled essay was disdainful of the recent decision of San Francisco to remove the names of Lincoln, Washington, and others with problematic histories with race from school buildings. Retired University of North Georgia political science professor Douglas Young characterized the revisions as Orwellian efforts to rewrite history. He makes, in an essay of 723 words, dismissive references to some variation of the term “left” 10 times to make points like the following:
“In the new ‘woke’ America of 2021, great people’s accomplishments are utterly irrelevant, and they are reviled as villains if contemporary leftists find they ever did or said anything the leftists don’t like. Indeed, in the tradition of the Jacobins, the Bolsheviks, and the Chinese communists’ Cultural Revolution, today’s politically correct standard is nothing less than 200-proof progressive perfection. How proud Chairman Mao would be of America’s Red Guards. . . . Throughout our vast, corrupted educational-industrial complex, such leftists seek to delegitimize America itself (especially our Western Judeo-Christian capitalist foundations).”
His remarks make his own ideology clear, grounding his interpretation of U.S. history in his own socialization as a conservative Christian capitalist. Yet to Professor Young, only his “leftist” opponents have a political motivation.
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