Home Opinion OPINION: Teach America’s children our failures as well as our successes

OPINION: Teach America’s children our failures as well as our successes

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Justin Thompson, a senior studying journalism, argues that trying to erase certain history from lessons in school will not give students the tools they need as adults.

Please note that these views and opinions do not reflect those of The New Political.

In an attempt to push revisionist history and false perceptions of the country’s origins on America’s youth, President Trump announced on Sept. 17 his plan to omit the story of the transatlantic slave trade — and the experiences of America’s earliest slaves — from school curriculums across the nation.

In a speech at the National Archives Museum, Trump said that the official aim of the “1776 Commission” is to promote “patriotic education” to counteract the “web of lies” that today’s schoolchildren are being taught about the early years of America. 

His announcement is a direct response to the “1619 Project,” a proposal by The New York Times that advocates for U.S. history courses to begin the story of America in 1619, when the first African slaves arrived on the shores of Virginia. 

The federal government has no authority over school curriculums. The executive order is toothless, but the message Trump is pushing is obvious.

He wants the most dishonorable, most sinful chapter of our nation’s history — one that’s politically inconvenient for him to acknowledge — to be washed from the record for America’s next generation. 

He wants to ignore the indisputable fact that the bodies and minds of the nation’s first Black citizens were sold, tortured and put to work by pre-colonial elites who used their free labor as a springboard to consolidate power over government and economic centers — power they have never yielded.

He wants to push a narrative in which the origins of racism in our country, a country where Jim Crow pushed Black citizens to the bottom rung of society for decades and where prejudiced police did — and still do — employ discriminatory tactics to terrorize Black communities, are ignored completely.

He does not want America’s kids to read the first chapter of a long story: that America’s Black population has been fighting to stand up for 400 years, and that the white power structure keeps trying to kick them back down to the ground. 

He wants to paint a rosy picture of the country’s first days, without acknowledging the evil that came just before. But we are a country built on exploitation. It is what has brought us so much economic prosperity, and why we swim in such murky moral waters. 

We drove aboriginal Native Americans off of their land and onto reservations. We forced slaves onto boats and into servitude. We have chopped down forests, dumped poison into our waterways and pumped toxins into the atmosphere. 

We cannot ignore that history. It is too pervasive and relevant. We have to own it, good and bad, and we have to learn from the mistakes of our past. 

And that is what makes Trump’s latest attempt at rewriting history so maddening. He refuses to acknowledge that America has ever been wrong, that we have ever made mistakes. 

But, we have. We have made huge ones. We still do. 

His continued attempts to hide behind the red, white and blue veil of patriotism are lazy. A real leader, an honorable president, would encourage all Americans to learn even more from our national failures than from our victories. 

Honest, nonpartisan education is a start. It breeds thoughtful, informed students who turn into politically active and passionate adults. 

It makes sense, then, that Trump wants to inhibit it. 

Because a generation of thinkers must frighten him, an ignoramus, more than anything else.

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