“What Trump calls “patriotic education” is racist education.”
—Ibram X. Kendi
“Shout out to the teachers who have their students read the declarations of Confederate secession, the narratives of enslaved ppl, & the letters written by our founding fathers. Teaching a history of slavery isn’t indoctrination, the primary sources tell the story for themselves.”
“Patriotic education” is Stephen Miller’s fascism + Mike Pence’s fundamentalism. Some years ago, I took a course in “patriotic education” for my book THE FAMILY. I spent a season reading its textbooks & talking to its teachers. Here’s what to expect…
I read the textbooks of evangelical academies & Christian nationalist homeschoolers to write a chapter of my book THE FAMILY. Trump’s “patriotic history” is straight out of that world, where the textbooks extolling American “heroes” like Stonewall Jackson are already written.
“Patriotic education” is a fundamentalist concept. Just as fundamentalist religion supposes that divine truths are literal & determined by (white male) authority, so fundamentalist history discards the ongoing work of knowing the past.
“Patriotic education” proposes, as did the White House conference, that the Constitution is divine, “god-breathed,” as some say, & thus impervious to expanding ideas of rights. That’s the religion behind Clarence Thomas’ constitutional “originalism.” It’s false.
“Heritage studies,” or “patriotic education,” is a cult of personality. History matters not for its progression of “fact, fact, fact,” Michael McHugh, a pioneer of modern Christian nationalist ed, told me, but for “key personalities.” It’s the strongman view of the past.
“The 1619 Project curriculum is available. What we’re exposing is a true fear of our children learning a more accurate history of the United States.”
“These are hard days we’re in but I take great satisfaction from knowing that now even Trump’s supporters know the date 1619 and mark it as the beginning American slavery. 1619 is part of the national lexicon. That cannot be undone, no matter how hard they try.”
Since ideas and ideologies played an especially important role in the Civil War era, American history textbooks give a singularly inchoate view of that struggle. Just as textbooks treat slavery without racism, they treat abolitionism without much idealism. Consider the most radical white abolitionist of them all, John Brown.
The treatment of Brown, like the treatment of slavery and Reconstruction, has changed in American history textbooks. From 1890 to about 1970, John Brown was insane. Before 1890 he was perfectly sane, and after 1970 he has slowly been regaining his sanity. Before reviewing six more textbooks in 2006-07, I had imagined that they would maintain this trend, portraying Brown’s actions so as to render them at least intelligible if not intelligent. In their treatment of Brown, however, the new textbooks don’t differ much from those of the 1980s, so I shall discuss them all together. Since Brown himself did not change after his death-except to molder more-his mental health in our textbooks provides an inadvertent index of the level of white racism in our society. Perhaps our new textbooks suggest that race relations circa 2007 are not much better than circa 1987.