An Illinois state lawmaker says it's time to stop teaching history because it's racist.
"America is a melting pot," state Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, told a Fox News host last week. "And that's what we teach in school, that it's a melting pot of everyone. And we should have a perfect accounting of that melting pot."
Until we do, he said, history should be removed immediately from the curriculum.
A perfect accounting of history, though? Now just what would that look like?
Ford doesn't really say, except to suggest that "Blacks are more than slaves," and that the contributions of Hispanics, Jews, Asians, gays and women also should be included.
We would agree that the contributions of all people should be mentioned in any American history textbook, but we're not sure the legislator even agrees with the words he says. Because in many of his other national interviews on the issue, it sounds as if he means a "perfect accounting" of history is what a particular ideological group decides is a "perfect accounting."
"Miseducation has fed and continues to feed systemic racism for generations," Meleika Gardner of We Will said in Ford's news release. "If Black History continues to be devalued and taught incorrectly, then it will call for further action."
He also has a bill in the legislature that would force elementary schools to teach students about the civil rights movement. In fact, the Illinois State Board of Education — updated as recently as 2017 — mandates that public school systems are required to offer social science classes that include units related to Black history, women's history and the period surrounding the Holocaust. Each elementary and high school must dedicate one unit of its respective curriculum to each subject, it says, but it does not specify the particular volume of material that constitutes a unit.
Well, said Ford, "school districts don't have the standards or the books to teach accurate history." No textbooks, he said, focus on contributions by non-white, non-male figures.
If they focused only on those contributions, they wouldn't be teaching accurate history, the same as if they focused only on the contributions of white males.
No, Ford appears to be caught up in the cancel culture that has swept up so many low-information citizens. Don't dwell on the contributions of the Founding Fathers who were slave owners. Sweep under the rug any good thing anyone did if they ever uttered or wrote a negative word that could be in any way offensive to any other person. Pretend that only one side was involved in the Civil War and that the great majority of Confederate soldiers who never owned slaves or even saw one were bigoted white supremacists. Paper over the fact the political party now leading the erasing of history is the one that demanded slavery be preserved, wrote and carried out Jim Crow laws, and dug in its racist heels until the civil rights era.
We will give the Illinois legislator — who is purported to once have taught history — partial credit for his alternative suggestion, though. He says civics should be taught until his "perfecting accounting" of history can be written.
We couldn't agree more about civics instructon, but Ford's Democratic brethren have been against such instruction across the country, calling it a waste of time and unnecessary.
"[W]e should instead devote greater attention toward civics," Ford said in his news release, "and ensuring students understand our democratic processes and how they can be involved."
Ford said he was "also alarmed that people continue to display symbols of hate, such as the recent display of the Confederate flag in Evanston, [Illinois]."
We're not sure what that has to do with the teaching of civics or history. We haven't seen any textbooks that suggest flying the Confederate flag in 2020 is a right or proper thing to do.
Indeed, we believe students need both history and civics courses.
They need a history textbook that does not eschew Thomas Jefferson, for instance, but says he both wrote the Declaration of Independence but kept slaves and fathered children by them. The same textbook should detail that Rosa Parks was not just a tired seamstress who didn't want to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus in 1955, but as a member of the NAACP had been privy to discussions about the need to challenge the city's racist bus laws, through which she would become the symbol the movement needed.
They need a civics class to understand that lawful protesting is a protected right in the U.S. but a deeper understanding of the Constitution and the government to understand why it is a protected right and what else is.
We don't believe Ford's suggestion of dropping history is going to go very far, but neither did we believe the summer of 2020 would find many people looking to a Marxist-leaning organization to instruct them on how the greatest country in the world should move forward. Strange days indeed.