As I began reading chapter 12 “textbooks” the 1989 revolutionary song “Fight the Power” came to mind. It was the soundtrack that played behind the entire reading for me. In the song Public Enemy, says (or maybe screams) “Don’t none of my hereos appear on no stamps!” Forgive the poor grammar and listen to the message; Chuck D and Flava Flav were asking for inclusion in America’s history.
I am older than my present classmates. I finished high school in 1985. I began my education in an impoverished public school district. My history books made no mention of Martin Luther King. George Washington Carver had a paragraph headed as “Negro Inventor.” Yes, that was it. I am certain that history books and other texts had become integrated by then but they had yet to trickle down to my school; many of my school text books had student signatures from the 70s in 1985. There was little for the 85% African American student body to relate to in the textbooks we were offered. Crispus Attucks, Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver and each occupied approximately one paragraph in the text.
I remember reading about the “Negro Inventor” while in elementary school. I was intrigued; I looked up the word Negro in the World Book encyclopedia (an ancient form of google) and it said a person who had the potential to grow (intellectually) as tall as the knee of a normal person. I asked my mother what that meant and she said, “it means never let another person define you or place a value on what is yours.”
Referring to history text books of the present day the author states: “In an effort to avoid ethnocentrism, they pay the same attention and respect to all cultures, past and present, promoting a cultural
relativism that misleads students into thinking that all cultures are equally important.” How is teaching that all cultures are equally important misleading? I’m not sure. No matter how many times I read and re-read that statement and at what angle I held my text it still implied the same thing. Disgusted.
I can say that I agree with the author that textbooks have become much more inclusive then they were in the 1980s. The textbooks my children bring home are worlds away from what I had. Have they gone too far? Are the over-compensating? I don’t know.
I see them through my own “life eyes.” Acknowledging the contributions from different cultures that made this country what it is, good and bad is a positive thing.
As a grade school and high school student I had no interest in history because it had no interest in me. In contrast, my children love history. It’s like story time to them and I can only believe the difference is they can see their story in his-story.
By the way, in 2012 Public Enemy came out with a song “Most of My Heroes Don’t Appear on No Stamps.” I’ve yet to listen to it. Flava Flav lost all cool revolutionary points with me after “Flavor of Love.”
*fist raised in protest*