Intro Unit: The Politics of Education - Enlightenment or Propaganda?

Intro Unit, Class 4: The Struggle Continues…The Ongoing Battle Against Racist Propaganda & Miseducation

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Learning Objectives
After completing this lesson, students 
will be able to:
  • Identify modern forms of bias and propaganda in public education and the efforts to combat them.​

  • Recognize the role politics play in the development of public school curricula.​

  • Analyze and critique liberal and conservative ​views on what should be taught in an American history curriculum.
“The same educational process which inspires and stimulates the oppressor with the thought that he is everything and has accomplished everything worth while, depresses and crushes at the same time the spark of genius in the Negro by making him feel that his race does not amount to much and never will measure up to the standards of other peoples. The Negro thus educated is a hopeless liability of the race.” 
- Dr. Carter G. Woodson

"An educator in a system of oppression is either a revolutionary or an oppressor."
                                                                                           - Dr. Lerone Bennet, Jr.

Class Overview

Despite fighting for over a century to counter the racist propaganda in education and popular culture, African Americans and other minorities remain targets of educational whitewashing and historical propaganda. Students of all races are given a Eurocentric curriculum that excludes or minimizes the contributions of other peoples and cultures in the world. In addition, the school system fails to fully incorporate a diverse administration and teaching faculty. As of 2011, a whopping 84% of all public school teachers in the U.S. were white. As a result, many students of color become disinterested and alienated from school, which often translates low academic achievement, high dropout rates and disruptive behavior. Yet this resistance to biased school curricula is often misinterpreted as Black and brown students' reckless disregard for education and proof of black/minority intellectual inferiority.
Beginning in 2010, conservatives and Republicans across the country led by states like Texas, Arizona and Colorado, began an aggressive campaign to rewrite American history books to reflect the ideology of White supremacy. In 2010, a conservative Christian minister who helped lead this charge stated, “We’re in an all-out moral and spiritual civil war for the soul of America, and the record of American history is right at the heart of it.” The results of their efforts have been largely successful. Arizona has banned all “ethnic studies” courses that the state claims, “promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, promote resentment of a particular race or class of people, are designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.” Yet the glaring fact that the current curriculum is designed for white Americans and promotes the supremacy of Europe and America goes arrogantly ignored. 
In Colorado, Republicans attempted to ban or cease funding of the national AP History curriculum unless it modified the language to greater embrace conservative ideology. In protest, the teachers and students (virtually all white) staged a "walkout" and a "Sickout" in protest. Yet the National Board, the company that administers the AP History tests, capitulated to the conservative demands and revised its curriculum. Even more troubling is the blatant distortion of American and world history in states like Texas. A recent Washington Post article (July 2015) reported:

An African American 9th grader in Pearland, Texas, further exposed the extent of the propaganda that has recently been reincorporated into U.S. history books. He texted his mother a photo of a caption in his 2015 McGraw Hill history textbook that referred to the Africans enslaved during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade as “workers,” in a section on “Immigration Patterns.” When confronted, McGraw Hill claimed that it was a simple “mistake.” By distorting history, Texas tells its students a dishonest and damaging story about the United States that prevents children from understanding the country today. Also troubling, Texas’s standards will likely affect more than just Texans: The state is the second-largest in the nation, which means books designed for its students may find their way into schools elsewhere, too. 
This class chronicles the conservative attempts since 2010 to whitewash American and world history, demonstrating why he struggle against racist propaganda must continue. What is so puzzling is the lack of Black resistance, which is in part the reason for this class and curriculum.

Five million public school students in Texas will begin using new social studies textbooks this fall [2015] based on state academic standards that barely address racial segregation. The state’s guidelines for teaching American history also do not mention the Ku Klux Klan or Jim Crow laws.

And when it comes to the Civil War, children are supposed to learn that the conflict was caused by “sectionalism, states’ rights and slavery” – written deliberately in that order to telegraph slavery’s secondary role in driving the conflict, according to some members of the state board of education."

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