The Education of a Nation: What Does History Have To Do With It?

“This speaker told how, for two hundred years, without wages, black people, brought to this land in slave ships and in chains had drained the swamps, built the homes, made cotton king and helped, on whip-lashed backs, to lift this nation from colonial obscurity to commanding influence in domestic commerce and world trade.”  Why We Can’t Wait by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Do you think the State Superintendent of Public Instruction in Arizona from 2003-2011, Thomas Charles Horne, reflected on Dr. King’s life when he decided that ethnic studies needed to be removed from the classrooms in his state?  How about Governor Jan Brewer, who created a buzz this past January by “scolding” President Obama during a visit, when she signed the 2010 House Bill #2281 that says this state shall not include any courses that “promote resentment toward a race or class of people”, “are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group”, or “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals”.  Or maybe, just maybe, they knew exactly the power true American history would have on the young people in Arizona.

 “Due to the omission, distortion, or marginalization of their history, they arrive to school everyday with historical and cultural amnesia.  They do not know who they are historically and culturally in a definitive way, which adversely affects their academic performance.”  Motivating Black Males to Achieve In School & In Life by Baruti K. Kafele

Afterall this is the state blasted by the music group Public Enemy (By the Time I Get To Arizona) for refusing to acknowledge the Dr. King national holiday.  If this territory couldn’t respect the greatest American to ever live than throwing out, or flat-out ignoring historic events from the curriculum was a piece of cake.  Consider the two players who were key to this legislation.  Mr. Horne is a businessman, lawyer whose own financial company went bankrupt leading to a lifetime ban from the securities industry [currently Arizona Attorney General].  And Governor Brewer…well she was blessed into politics by earning a Radiological Technologist Certificate at Glendale Community College (California) and rose to power by backing racist immigration policy.

If he had lived historian Howard Zinn would have been ninety years old this August 24th.  Surely his tome A People’s History of the United States is banned from the critical thinking in Arizona (and probably Florida, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, South Carolina…see a Republican pattern here) classrooms.  But what’s the excuse in New York, California or any other state with large African-American Democratic populations?  How about charter, private or voucher educators that supposedly have more flexibility without unions?  What’s their excuse? 

There’s more to it of course.  Racism within education is a taboo subject.  Inequality is dismissed as an excuse.  Truth tellers like Dr. Cornel West ( [We’re in] the history of the human drama trying to preserve the dignity and decency of poor & working people) are dismissed.  And what of the people who are in charge of educating our kids;  school boards, superintendents, administrators and mayors?  Have they been held accountable for the United States colossal primary/secondary education failure?  Or are those same people now dictating the reform movement?

“History is a relay race, one generation handing off information to another.”  William C. Rhoden, Writer & Author, The Forty Million Dollar Slave

The Nation has dropped the education baton, and all of us will pay for this miserable finish.

“Signed…An Educated Brother!” 


About aneducatedbrother

Sharing the belief that education is not a business, and true academic reform is the only tide that will lift all boats.
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