By Chris Sacco, Staff Columnist
The long assault on the true, objective history of the United States as an invaluable part of American education, continued this week in Oklahoma. The curriculum for Advanced Placement, or AP U.S. History, having been recently revised, has been met with skepticism and revisionist backlash in this Midwestern state. A Republican state representative in Oklahoma, Dan Fisher, introduced a measure to scrap the course from state schools, due to the focus on “bad” portions of American history. Such an assault on logical and ethical education, in this land of supposed transparency, cannot be supported.
American history is peppered with peaks and troughs. The theory of American Exceptionalism would like those troughs to be disregarded, or in Oklahoma, erased from the minds of the next generation, in order to paint America as an infallible land of everlasting glory. The checkered and pot-marked past would be replaced with the inane and factually incorrect theory that America’s history has been an avenue of green lights, stretching out endlessly in either direction.
The United States organized the Oklahoma territory in the 19th century for one purpose–to contain the thousands of Native Americans whom the American government forcibly displaced in order to cleanse their former land for white settlers. This is fact, not conjecture. America did lose the war in Vietnam; blindly seeking to remove an alternate form of government from a nation it knew little about and had no ethical business meddling with. Thousands of African Americans, along with Italians and other immigrants, were lynched by bloodthirsty mobs of hundreds, put on display and sold on postcards. This is American history as much as storming the beach at Normandy, abolishing slavery and defeating the British.
America has a history just as any other nation. America is, undoubtedly, an exceptional nation. However, it is not a nation without faults and atrocities. This nation did and continues to accomplish greatness. To erase portions of the past is to blindly drink the intoxicating liquor of jingoism, and throw away any semblance of self-awareness and self-improvement. To proclaim America infallible is to end that which is essential to America’s success—progress and improvement.
The Oklahoman state representative expressed the kind of hubris that will topple this nation from its peak. When this bill reached airwaves, there undoubtedly was a great rumbling across America, as the founding fathers whirled in their graves, lachrymose and distraught with the very idea of an America that rewrites history. This is not America. This is not American. The theory of America is taking the good with the bad, the glorious with the shameful. It is the triumph of the Wright Brothers and the horrors of Japanese internment.
The AP U.S. History course is not without faults. To claim, however, as CNN quoted the representative as saying, that a course championing American Exceptionalism, the glory of the free-market, and conservative government is representative of American history and a valid form of education is to push one’s head firmly in the sand. There is no Republican or Democratic history of America–there is only American history.
The representative has, since the public backlash began, decided to rewrite the bill with less harsh and pointed language. However, this bill should not be discussed at all. It should be remembered as one of the troughs in American history, when those elected to ensure the safety and growth of the American people failed in their basic duty. When personal politics, when party politics, invaded the ethical backbone of education.
George Orwell warned, “political language — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” We cannot, as a nation, stand idly by, mouths agape with empty thoughts abound, as politicians attempt to hijack American history, and bastardize it through the use of political jargon.
True patriots wish to better their nation, and teach future generations that faults in history are there as lessons too. By omitting the darkest mistakes from American history—that “bad” light—we are opening the door to revisiting those dark occurrences through sheer ignorance. This bill is on hold for now, being edited to tone down the harsh rhetoric. However, we must remember the lesson of Orwell, and not let his observations and his nightmares be birthed unto this nation through hubris and arrogance. We must teach the youth that even a nation as great as this still maintains room for improvement.