Homeschoolers should lead the change to anti-racist US history
Right now schools have no idea how to teach online and kids will go to school irregularly this fall. It will take 20 years for school districts to dig themselves out of the Covid crisis and start thinking about what is actually important to teach. Meanwhile, the US history curriculum is already so outdated that it’s offensive.
I was a US history major in college. I also taught the high-gloss curricula of Advanced Placement US history to my son. What I’ve learned is that even the best research and most popular textbooks are mired in White supremacy culture. And, to be honest, I found that my teenaged son was more able than I am to catch racist transgressions, because I’ve spent so many years learning whitewashed history.
But honestly, we both had to learn together, mostly from online sources. Right now we are listening to videos from Rachel Cargle on Patreon. I am shocked by how much I’ve learned.
For example, American colonists lived under British common law, so children inherited their legal status from their father. In 1656 Elizabeth Key, a Black woman with an English father, sued and won freedom for herself and her son. By that time colonists were already dependent on enslaved labor. So the colonists changed the laws so that a child inherited legal status from the mother. This enabled slavery to become a caste because it didn’t matter what percentage English a child was. Also, this way White men could rape Black women and actually profit from rape by gaining another person to enslave.
This is a new way to think for me. It’s the essence of the study of history: understanding the past so we can better understand the present. It takes some digging on the parent’s part to find a fresh approach to US history that makes sense in the context of Black Lives Matter.
I recently came across this list from Green Mountain Farm-to-School:
It’s no accident that:
You learned about Helen Keller instead of W.E.B, DuBois.
You learned about the Watts and L.A. Riots, but not Tulsa or Wilmington.
You learned that George Washington’s dentures were made from wood, rather than the teeth from slaves.
You learned about Black ghettos, but not about Black Wall Street.
You learned about the New Deal, but not red lining.
You learned about Tommie Smith’s fist in the air at the 1968 Olympics, but not that he was sent home the next day and stripped of his medals.
You learned about Black crime, but White criminals were never lumped together and discussed in terms of their race.
You learned about states rights as the cause of the Civil War, but not that slavery was mentioned 80 times in the Ordinance of Secession.
Privilege is having history rewritten so that you don’t have to acknowledge uncomfortable facts.
Racism is perpetuated by people who refuse to learn or acknowledge this reality.
You have a choice.
This list excites me because I have so many new things to learn, and I have the ability to see the world so much more clearly. As homeschoolers we can make sure to challenge racist retellings of history and show our kids a more honest path through US history.
As White parents It’s not enough to chant Black Lives Matter. Racism comes from families and the stories we tell. Parents need to make it a priority to find new ways to tell old stories because Black Lives Matter should be a major theme for US History and for the rest of homeschool as well.
I LOVE this post!!! SO true. I would love for children to be raised with a depth of knowledge of white collar and political crimes because those effect society as a whole in a large way. There is an amazing book by New York Times bestselling author Clayton Christensen entitled:
“How Will You Measure Your Life?.” Recently deceased Christianson was a recognized world’s leading thinker on innovation and coined the phrase “disruptive technology.” He graduated Harvard Business School in the eighties with classmates Ken Lay (of totally corrupt Enron fame) and many other high profile criminals. The book is a wonderfully engaging read with juicy inside details of the extent of immorality, debauchery, greed and other unsavory character. traits that brought many of his classmates to public scorn and life ruin. His book asks the question WHY? How? do the men who are poised to be the world’s best minds with the most to offer society implode and self destruct and destroy so much along the way? His book asks these vital questions putting money, success and wealth in their proper context with solid family relationships at the core of what essentially is meant to, and does truly make us happy and bring us joy, if we commit to it in the highest way. He dissects the antics of Ken Lay in particular in such detail you feel like your best friend worked for the jerk and is dishing out the creepy Enron culture to you over a happy hour escape drink. I think this book could be a great homeschool library read to show students why setting your priorities right can be the best compass for your life and to notice how being the truth seeker as the journalist who in the end brought down the whole house of cards which was ENRON, was like the child who asked, “Why is the Emperor wearing no clothes?” It is AMAZING. Wall Street bought the smoke and mirrors show wholeheartedly and lost a lot of innocent peoples investment money and a JOURNALIST, not an auditing accountant, was interviewing Ken Lay and asking some straight forward simple questions. Her intuition spoke to her when she experienced his arrogant brush off and inability to answer simple questions and show transparency of routine questions of accounting so she decided it was a red flag and to dig deeper. Amazingly this young journalist cracked the case on one of Wall Street’s most devastating scams. The housing crash of 2006-2008 had similar political cronyism criminals that every child should read about too. The one thing I want to defend here though, George Washington was really an overall exemplary person. I cringe whenever someone goes after George Washington as a hateful exploiter. If he had false teeth of black slaves, which I am sorry to learn he did, is it he who stole them or was it his dentist? I agree to point that out is a very good thing. We should examine the horrific ills of the past and bring them to light but I’m quite sure if George Washington had those kind of false teeth it was commonplace for that era.
My dear grandmother wore a Fox Head Stole with the tales and heads of three foxes knit together to be worn around the shoulders on a chilly night. It was a glamour piece probably all the movie stars had them. The fox teeth were removed and George Washington’s descendants are known to have used them in their dentures, no seriously, the teeth were removed and clasps were put in so the mouth could open and the clasp could fasten the tale and hold the shawl in place. You can still find these on Ebay or estate sales. That was from the 1950’s. A ton of women wore them and their husbands showed them off too as a sign of prestige and success. WOW. What a creepy fashion trend. But was my grandmother some lowlife scum with no regard for animals and humanity? No, she was brainwashed along with the culture that it was okay.
I’m sorry but sometimes what is culturally acceptable at a time, as horrific as it may be, can ensnare all of us. How many of us watch violent Hollywood movies? ALL OF US. We can hardly escape it in any movie. The roman’s had Gladiators, that means culturally there was a pretty low consciousness, it doesn’t specifically point to one person as the perpetrator of that evil. Does it make us all evil if we refuse to shut off our computers and boycott the internet because of it’s inability to get free of child pornography? Am I an enabler of Sex Trafficking because I have the audacity to use a tool that is also used for such evil? Is that what future generations could look back at me for and sum up my character and accomplishments based on my refusal to stop typing and start policing the internet?I just do not understand why George Washington can not be left alone. He was an extraordinary man who personally sacrificed so much for so much good to result; and to me, to pick his character apart over the teeth his dentist put in his mouth seems unfair.He was asked to be King of the new country he physically battled to create and he refused. How noble is that?
I’ve always known there was lots I didn’t learn in my history classes in school and that’s why I’ve always had an avid interest in it. I’m always finding out new things that I didn’t know before . I think part of the issue with history classes taught in public schools in the U.S. is that they are often taught by coaches. The history classes I had in junior high and high school were taught a lot of the time by coaches. To be an athletic coach, you also had to teach, you couldn’t just be a coach, so often these teacher coaches ended up teaching history because to them, it was an “easier” subject to teach. They didn’t make it very engaging because teaching wasn’t their main priority, athletics was. It was a lot of basic from the book reading and memorizing of dates and names but not a lot of real depth. There were exceptions and I did have some history teachers who did have an interest in history and they stand out because they made history captivating, but so many just did the bare minimum because they were only teaching to keep their coach position. That changed in college once I started being taught be people whose specialty was history, but I was also taking some specialized history classes outside of just the ones for general education requirements.
“You learned about Tommie Smith’s fist in the air at the 1968 Olympics, but not that he was sent home the next day and stripped of his medals.”
There’s much more to this story than mentioned above. I remember the sixties and the 1968 Olympics growing up. It was a crazy time that didn’t make much sense to me at the time. I also remember the L.A. riots especially since I was living about 5 miles away from them in Gardena. I kept wondering how far they would spread. But I digress. There’s a good piece I came across to refresh my memory about the black power fist raised in the 1968 Olympics. It’s at https://www.history.com/news/1968-mexico-city-olympics-black-power-protest-backlash . It contains many details including the following –
“As the (black) American athletes raised their fists, the stadium hushed, then burst into racist sneers and angry insults. Smith and Carlos were rushed from the stadium, suspended by the U.S. team, and kicked out of the Olympic Village for turning their medal ceremony into a political statement. They went home to the United States, only to face serious backlash, including death threats.
However, Carlos and Smith were both gradually re-accepted into the Olympic fold, and went on to careers in professional football before retiring. Norman (white athlete), meanwhile, was punished severely by the Australian sports establishment. Though he qualified for the Olympic team over and over again, posting the fastest times by far in Australia, he was snubbed by the team in 1972. Rather than allow Norman to compete, the Australians did not send a sprinter at all.
Norman immediately retired from the sport and began to suffer from depression, alcoholism and a painkiller addiction. “During that time,” writes Caroline Frost for the BBC, “he used his silver medal as a doorstop.”
Norman died without being acknowledged for his contributions to the sport. Though he kept his silver medal, he was regularly excluded from events related to the sport. Even when the Olympics came to Sydney in 2000, he was not recognized. When Norman died in 2006, Carlos and Smith, who had kept in touch with Norman for years, were pallbearers at the Australian’s funeral.
It took until 2012 for the Australian government to apologize for the treatment Norman received in his home country. But even though it cost him his career and much of his happiness, Norman would have done it over again. “I won a silver medal,” he told the New York Times in 2000. “But really, I ended up running the fastest race of my life to become part of something that transcended the Games.”
Racism is a terrible thing. But it doesn’t happen in a vacuum and there are people like Peter Norman who have a good moral compass and are willing to make sacrifices for their fellow human beings.
The following article ( https://www.edutopia.org/article/designing-your-lms-make-distance-learning-better ) with the tagline – “Intentionally setting up a learning management system where everything students need is easy to access can help them all be successful.” – has some good suggestions for teachers who are instructing online. It’s student and community based with empathy for the student and good design emphasized. Online learning as an exclusive method of getting instruction is a big turn-off to me. With that being said, it’s still necessary for teachers to do some learning themselves to serve their students better. This comment is in response to the first article linked in this post.
I found this great US history homeschooling curriculum from Woke Homeschooling, which we are embarking on this fall in our home: https://wokehomeschooling.com/book/book-3/
Wanted to pass it along.