Morning Coffee: Banishing History

feetThere’s been a growing movement to cleanse our history by banishing everything that does not fit with our contemporary beliefs of inclusiveness and understanding. This is a very sad and dangerous thing. If we don’t teach our history, if we banish it to some hidden place where no one dares speak its name, how are we to learn? For it is only through knowledge of the sins of our past do we improve our future.

A couple weeks ago the ALSC (Association for Library Services to Children’s Board) changed the name of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children’s Literacy Legacy Award. Their reasoning was that Laura’s “stereotypical attitudes [are] inconsistent with ALSC’s core values”. In other words, Laura Ingalls Wilder was a racist. Laura’s writing does express prejudicial views of indigenous peoples and peoples of color, but it also teaches understanding of cultures that are different. For example, when Pa takes Laura to visit an Indian camp. Yes, Ma feared what some of the native people were capable of doing based on the experiences of others at the time. Some tribes were known to rape and murder white settlers. Some routinely kidnapped children to adopt as their own or act as slaves for their women. This would have been a very frightening prospect to a mother often left alone with her children while her husband was away hunting or gone into town for supplies (a trip that could take him away for days, if not weeks).

There’s a campaign going on right now to silence any recognition of our own Civil War. First you pull down statues of Confederate officers. Next thing you know everything about the Civil War is deemed offensive and removed from text books and history curriculums. If you do that, then you can’t teach about the good things that came from that time period. Things like the Underground Railroad and the eventual emancipation of the slaves. How do you teach about slavery and then the civil rights movement of the 1960s if you can’t teach about the Civil War and President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation?

And how long will it be before we start banning books again? If Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name is no longer acceptable on a children’s book award, when do we start pulling her books from library shelves, Amazon, Barnes and Noble? And after her, do we continue on to Mark Twain and Harper Lee? It’s called censorship, and the list is endless.

But these things offend us, you argue. They make us uncomfortable. Yes, they do! Sometimes history makes us uncomfortable, and it should. That’s how our children learn what’s right, by learning what’s wrong. There were definitely bad policies made because of hatred, fear, and ultimately, greed, during our quest for western expansion and the acceptance of slavery.

Why deprive our children knowledge of our rich history, all the good that’s come before, because we don’t like to hear the bad? It reminds me of the three monkeys: Hear no evil. See no evil. Speak no evil. Except it’s not true; if we don’t hear or see evil, how can we help but speak evil. We won’t know any different.

I grew up with history. My father is a retired history teacher. I have a history degree. I read and write history. Please, don’t let anyone take this away from our children. Fight to preserve our past so that we might learn and grow in our future.

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