Illinois State Representative LaShawn K. Ford and a group of community leaders are calling for the state’s school districts to remove history curriculum due to their belief that it “leads to white privilege and a racist society.”
This event is a follow up to the legislation introduced earlier this year, HB 4954, which would require the establishment of certain new school holidays, including Dream Day to “respect the spiritual and moral principles of peoplehood and involve the use of the colors black and white as a visual affirmation to practice these principles,” and require that “teaching of the history of the United States shall include the study of the American civil rights renaissance, that period of time from 1954 to 1965 called the Movement.”
In a press release, Rep. Ford said, “When it comes to teaching history in Illinois, we need to end the miseducation of Illinoisans. I’m calling on the Illinois State Board of Education and local school districts to take immediate action by removing current history books and curriculum practices that unfairly communicate our history. Until a suitable alternative is developed, we should instead devote greater attention toward civics and ensuring students understand our democratic processes and how they can be involved. I’m also alarmed that people continue to display symbols of hate, such as the recent display of the Confederate flag in Evanston.”
Meleika Gardner, a supporter of the movement and a board member of the organization We Will, created an amendment that would also include “making the study of the American civil rights movement, pre-enslavement history and additional areas of study to the Black History portion of the curriculum mandatory rather than an elective,” per CNN.
“It’s just very damaging,” Gardner said. “It feeds into systemic racism if you’re fed that information.”
Rep. Ford appears to believe that “current history teaching practices overlook the contributions by women and members of the black, Jewish, LGBTQ communities and other groups.”
However, this blanket criticism is both vague and a misrepresentation of how and why certain historical items are covered, and others are not.
Generally, history in American schools focuses on Western Civilization, especially in primary and secondary education. This generally includes focus on the ancient world, specifically the fertile crescent with the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans, then moving onto the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Age of Discovery, the American Revolution, Civil War, Gilded Age, World War I, World War II, Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War era and up to the modern time period. Understanding these events gives young Americans a greater understanding of the country’s cultural, religious and historical heritage.
It’s not until most students get to university that classes that focus on Jewish, Asian, African and other historical topics are offered in greater depth.
And, sometimes, it’s not even possible to fully explore or understand the history of a particular group. For example, there is no written history of the South Sudanese people until their interactions with Western explorers in the 1800s as they didn’t have a written language. The best historians can do is track the names people gave their children, as those usually reveal whether there was a strong harvest, drought, war or famine at the time of the child’s birth.
What Rep. Ford and others want to do is replace the history of Western civilization with propaganda. Changing the curriculum would have little to do with removing what they consider “racist” and everything to do with promoting a specific agenda.
There’s nothing wrong with focusing on minor characters of history, but they should be anecdotes and not the main focus in public school history classes. If this changes, then be prepared for students to know more about the crazy, inconsequential and transgender Roman Emperor Elagabalus and less about Julius Caesar.
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