I am a product of public education, which means, well, not much I fear. My generation was taught to learn by rote, possibly the most boring and least effective method of instruction ever used. Like most students of my era, I remember very little.
The few things that stand out are weird and funny. In third grade, while studying ancient civilizations, a boy in my class asked, “Did the Phoenicians invent ‘Phoenician’ blinds?” I guess he was staring out of the window during that lesson.
My grammar school years were spent in Catholic schools where we memorized entire prayers in Latin, phonetically, never understanding the meaning of unconnected syllables. They were nothing more than sounds to us.
However, we had absolute faith in the veracity of our texts and our teachers. Whether nuns or lay teachers, math or history books, we knew that they were never to be questioned. After all, books don’t lie. Or do they?
These days, I am more skeptical, and certainly more cynical. Rightfully so, I think, because a recent article in Salon (July 13) reports that Heritage Academy, an Arizona charter school, is using a history book which says whites envied “freedom” of slaves.
Cleon Skousen, author of “The 5,000 Year Leap” and “The Making of America,” argues that slavery was “beneficial to African-Americans and that Southern racism was caused by the ‘intrusion’ of Northern abolitionists and advocates of equality for the freed slaves.”
One of the books also includes an essay in which the author argues that “if [African-American children] ran naked, it was generally from choice, and when the white boys had to put on shoes and go away to school, they were likely to envy the freedom of their colored playmates.”
Oh, those lucky little slaves. They had such a good life.
This reminds me of the Holocaust deniers who raised their confused heads almost immediately after World War II ended. There are many versions of denial (excuse me, I mean revisionism); some are that there were no gas chambers, extermination camps, or mass murder, that the actual number of Jews killed was much lower than the reported five to six million. There is much more. (For those who are interested, the Internet has endless articles on the subject.)
That Holocaust hoax — what a funny joke was played on the entire world.
These “historical” rewrites may be believable — except that we have photographs of the horrors of slavery. The starvation and extermination of Jews, gays, gypsies, and any group vilified by the Hitler regime, has been well documented. How can anyone ever declare these facts of recent history to be untrue?
Alright, photographs can be manipulated. Trick photography has probably been around since the invention of camera obscura, about 400 BC. But, really, there are people alive today who remember the concentration camps, and it hasn’t been too long since the last of this country’s slaves were still alive.
Is it acceptable to totally fabricate history? I truly hope not.
I write an opinion column, but positively do not try to misrepresent my work as historical text. Golden Triangle readers are welcome to question and criticize my comments. (And, believe me they do!) But, when someone tries to pass off fairy tales as facts, then parents (and even students) should raise their voices in revolt. We need to question, and think for ourselves. Brainwashing — it’s for tyrants.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.