Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Teaching Myths To Students

Our school librarian instituted a most interesting feature--on one shelf is a collection of books, each of which has been recommended by a teacher. Our pictures are included on a big bookmark that says "Mr. So-and-so recommends...." I'm one of the teachers who's recommended a book, and mine is Lies My Teacher Told Me.

Yes, this book is written by a socialist. However, I can't help but agree with this review posted at the above link:

As a conservative white male who views revisionist history quite skeptically, I did not expect much from this book. As a student of American history, I understood what a woeful job our textbooks and (unfortunately) our teachers do in teaching the actual history of this country, but I never expected both the depth and the level of scholarship Mr. Loewen presents in this book. It is well researched, well written and much needed.

Students at my school encounter myths and share them with me. One of them is that somehow, at some nebulous point in the past, the Republican and Democrat parties "switched" ideologies. Yes, Republicans were the party of freedom and abolition of slavery, but they "became" the party of racists and now Democrats have taken on the mantle of equality.

And this is crap. Even James Loewen, the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, goes into depth regarding the racist history of the Democrat Party and its adherents--and trust me, Loewen is no friend of the Republicans. Apparently, though, it makes some teachers feel good to feed this crap to students. I guess it's all part of that "higher order thinking skills" about which we hear so much.

I read the same slur in an article at, and fortunately the slur was countered.

In his new book, "The Conscience of a Liberal," New York Times columnist Paul Krugman makes a strong case for his belief that the political success of the Republican Party and the conservative movement over the past 40 years has resulted largely from their co-optation of Southern racists that were the base of the Democratic Party until its embrace of civil rights in the 1960s...

However, if a single mention of states' rights 27 years ago is sufficient to damn the Republican Party for racism ever afterwards, what about the 200-year record of prominent Democrats who didn't bother with code words? They were openly and explicitly for slavery before the Civil War, supported lynching and "Jim Crow" laws after the war, and regularly defended segregation and white supremacy throughout most of the 20th century.

Examples are given, and like those in Loewen's book, they're not pretty.

People are entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts. The Republicans drummed David Duke out of the party while the Democrats still cling to Robert Byrd (of KKK fame). I don't expect my fellow teachers to be unbiased--Lord knows I'm not--but I do expect them to be honest. And some of them are not.

Update, 1/8/08: I've been reading up on the Little Rock situation in the Eisenhower Archives. Read the communications from the Arkansas Senators and Congressmen to President Eisenhower, and the President's thoughtful responses to them. Read the telegram to the President from "the parents of nine Negro children enrolled at Little Rock Central High School".

Then remember what political parties these players belonged to.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. I have resisted reading this book for a long time now because I was afraid it was going to be completely one-sided. Your post gives me hope that is not the case and I will put it back on my long list of things to read.

Mrs. Johnson said...

I was just looking at that book yesterday at the bookstore and it intrigued me. Now I see it is worth reading.

Darren said...

I admit that I have questioned some of Loewen's "facts" because when he gets into the "Reagan-Bush" years, about which I have firsthand knowledge, his so-called facts become a lot less solid and a lot more like opinion (and a lot more like hyperbolic invective). Yet I let him have his ravings, because in the previous chapters he answers so many questions that I've always had about history.

W.R. Chandler said...

One of my favorite parts of the book is when he calls out that hero of the Democrats, Woodrow Wilson, on Wilson's absolute poisonous hatred of blacks and his support for segregation. That aspect of Wilson is often glossed over or not mentioned at all.

Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

Oh, I'm going to have to look this one up!! I have tried to be very open with my oldest son about the lies in the system, etc. and have checked out the Teenage Liberation Handbook for him and everything. He still wants to stay in school, though. Bummer.

On the cupcakes: I do agree with our district policy for birthdays, etc. when treats are shared. They must be commercially prepared. This eliminates the sister licking her fingers and then touching the batter sort of thing. (blech)

Though I do draw the line when school officials confiscate my child's lunch because I occasionally serve him granola bars instead of what they consider "healthy" food! They made my kiddo buy the school lunch that day. I informed them that if I want to, I can send that kid every day with ten chocolate bars and you'd better not interfere with MY PARENTING again!! Unless I am poisoning my child or NEVER feeding him nutritious food, it's none of their stinkin' business.

I've also heard that the kids are "not allowed" to bring in certain foods but if I send it and they even think of taking my son's lunch, they'll be sorry. I don't care if there's a black market for twinkies or not. They do NOT own my children. I absolutely respect rules that are made for the common good and make some common sense, however. This just isn't one of them!!

Anonymous said...

This just proves that "Democrat" and "Republican" are pretty meaningless labels that get thrown around very incorrectly a lot of the time. There are religious, fundamentalist Democrats (not many, but still existent) just like there are Republicans that oppose the war.

You say that the switch in ideologies is a myth, but that very obviously isn't true, because they DID switch! Republicans were started on the basis of ending slavery and yet in the second half of the twentieth century there were (and still are) very much racist, Southern Republicans! There may not have been a singular instant in which everything flip-flopped. However, when the Democrats (Truman specifically) began to support the civil rights movement in the 1950s, Republicans naturally opposed it and the Dixiecrats were formed too. By the time Strom Thurmond became a Republican, the South was as well, even though Democratic candidates won in the south from the 1870s to the 1960s, nearly a century.

Personally, I think what matters is what sort of a person you are, not what political party you're affiliated with. The South was first Democrat, then Republican, but always racist. So one could say "The Democrats were racist," but what would be more accurate would be "The South was Democrat."

All I know for sure is that the South frightens me. I've been to Georgia, I've seen Deliverance and Easy Rider. That's quite enough for me. The terms "Democrat" and "Republican" mean much less to me than terms like "racist," and I would definitely argue that it is the region, not the political party, that advocates racism .Of course, note that when I say that, I don't mean to say that every Southerner is a racist. I do fully believe and know from experience, however, that there are quite a few more racists and religious bigotry in the South than anywhere else I've seen.

Anonymous said...

Also, have you read A People's History of the United States? I picked it up recently for cheap and have only started the very beginning, but it looks very interesting as well, in the same vein as Lies My Teachers Told Me.

Darren said...

Cameron, you've bought into it hook, line, and sinker. It was Southern DEMOCRATS who resisted the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Johnson said he was handing the South the the Republicans for a generation when he signed the Civil Rights Act because Southern DEMOCRATS would be angry at him for doing so.

Additionally, many blacks in the South were Republicans at that time because the DEMOCRATS WOULDN'T ALLOW THEM TO REGISTER AS DEMOCRATS in several Southern states. Blacks only switched to the Democrat Party when that party started pandering to them.

Read the link that lists several statements from the plank of the DEMOCRAT party over the years. Find similar language in the Republican Party platform, if you can.

Darren said...

Oh, and Zinn, who wrote A People's History of the United States, is one step away from a communist--as alluded to in the title of his book. I'm not reading that one. He has high praise for Loewen's book, though. Zinn's made a lot of money being a grandstander for the Hate America First crowd, and I for one am not going to enrich him.

Darren said...

The part about Johnson is listed as a legend in Wikipedia, but doesn't say whether it's true or not:
Shortly thereafter, the bill passed the Senate by a vote of 73-27, and quickly passed through the House-Senate conference committee, which adopted the Senate version of the bill. The conference bill was passed by both houses of Congress, and was signed into law by President Johnson on July 2, 1964. Legend has it that as he put down his pen Johnson told an aide, We have lost the South for a generation.[2]

By the by, here's the vote breakdown by party for that law, available at the same link:

By party

The original House version:

* Democratic Party: 153-96 (64%-39%)
* Republican Party: 138-34 (80%-20%)

The Senate version:

* Democratic Party: 46-22 (68%-32%)
* Republican Party: 27-6 (82%-18%)

The Senate version, voted on by the House:

* Democratic Party: 153-91 (63%-37%)
* Republican Party: 136-35 (80%-20%)

So apparently it was some time after 1964 when the Republican Party became the party of racists. What year was it?

Darren said...

And more from the same article:

The South indeed started to vote increasingly Republican after 1964. However, political scientists Richard Johnston and Byron Schafer have argued that this development was based more on economics than on race. [9]

Anonymous said...

I think you missed my point a bit. I just was trying to say:

1. The South is predominately Republican

2. The South is more racist than anywhere else (that's hardly an opinion; basically every racist incident has occurred in the South.)

3. Therefore, many Republicans hold racist views.

I was not saying that ALL Republicans are racist. I am saying that the South is now almost fully Republican, and now almost fully insane, and I would never want to be associated with that. Basically, I was trying to say that one of the reasons I am not a Republican is that I am fully in disagreement with most Southerners, and they mostly happen to be Republican. Never mind what they used to be. Right now, they are Republicans, and they are all destroying scientific values and the freedom to make personal choices in favor of Christian dogmatism, and restricting civil liberties, and not allowing homosexuals to have any sort of rights in any way based on some cherry-picked millennia old religious verses, and unlimited military spending, and it's absolutely the stupidest thing I've ever seen and I would never in a billion years support a party that is doing what they are doing now. THAT is probably the main reason I don't support the Republicans. There are (really!) ways that I support them, and ways that I both support and (sometimes strongly) do NOT support the Democrats. The reasons I just gave you, however, are very very bad in my book of ethics, and it's what the Republicans are doing right now.

What do you mean by "Blacks only switched to the Democrat Party when that party started pandering to them," anyway? Isn't that an ideological switch? When did that happen?

Darren said...

I know what your point is, but it's still wrong.

DADvocate said...

Darren -

Good point on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. One of the Senators voting against it was Albert Gore, Sr.

The South is more racist than anywhere else (that's hardly an opinion; basically every racist incident has occurred in the South.)

Where was the Rodney King incident? Look up the major race riots for the past 30 years. Most are outside of the South.

I grew up in the South and understand it. As long as you don't act like an uppity outsider, I guarantee you your safer in the rural South than any major Northern city. You speak with tremendous ignorance of what you speak about. Deliverance and Easy Rider? Give me a break. Those movies are nearly 40 years old.

You have fallen for the myths of the left.

Anonymous said...

Cameron, I'm afraid your logic is a little flawed. I could use the same flawed logic to come to the following conclusion:

1. God is Love
2. Love is blind
3. Therefore, God is Ray Charles

Even if your first two points are true by themselves, they do not add up to your conclusion.

That being said, even I have to disagree with your second point. Stating that the South is more racist than anywhere else is an opinion. To my knowledge, there is no statistical evidence to prove this claim. In my experience, the South is no more or less racist than anywhere else, they just don't bother hiding it.

Darren said...

You're right, they don't bother hiding it. There's a Chocolate City in Louisiana--any Vanilla City in a place like South Dakota?

(if you don't get the reference, just ask)

Ellen K said...

I always find it amusing that liberals conveniently gloss over the rampant racism in northern cities such as Boston and Chicago. Does anyone else remember the epic lawsuits the ensued when the Boston schools were forced to desegregate? And Chicago schools are often called the most segregated in the nation. I won't defend racism at any level because it's simply wrong, but when it comes to heavy handed court order action, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, OKC, Little Rock, Kansas City, St. Louis and New Orleans carried much more of the actual burden of desegregation than northern cities although the level of racism was pretty much the same in both areas. I remember when we moved from Odessa, TX to Chicago and my mom wanted to find someone to help her with house repairs. She hired an African American man and his son and we had nasty letters for months because she dared to allow them to work in our house when my dad was at work. Yet these same people patted themselves on the back for their social liberalism. Go figure. As for the whole party issue, I don't think either party stands for anything other than power. They have no ethics, no principles and certainly no adherence to national security or sovereignty.

Dan Edwards said...

Lets face it, racism knows no ethnic boundaries. There are racist of every color. Where I live in Southern California, I have been ignored and imo, discriminated against at several major retail stores because I am white/anglo. If any customer stands at a sales counter waiting for service, then someone of the same ethnic heritage as the sales person comes along and is then served first, that is racist. And I tell people about it and no longer shop at those stores.

My mother was once slapped by an uncle for getting a drink of water from the "wrong" drinking fountain. In rural 1930's Arkansas, this little white girl was drinking from the "Colored Only" drinking fountain.

As for Democrats and Republicans, IMO, the party system ought to be abolished and persons interested in running for office should do so on their own merit, not based on some party platform. Of course, this will never happen because too many people profit from the current system, to the detriment of the USA.

Hube said...

I kinda agree with Darren's take on Loewen's history; however, Loewen is pathetically PC not to mention [unconsciously] denigrating towards blacks as evidenced by his more "culturally relevant" sample SAT question for said audience:

Saturday Ajax got an LD:

a) He had smoked too much grass
b) He tripped out on drugs
c) He brought her to his apartment
d) He showed it off to his fox
e) He became wised up

(This comes from Dinesh D'Souza's book Illiberal Education.)

Anonymous said...

Your point that Republicans broke the filibuster, after much lobbying by Johnson, and voted for the Civil Rights Act is correct. However, Barry Goldwater voted against the bill and made that position part of his presidential campaign. It was at this point that two parties began to change their positions on race issues. Byrd did remain in the Democratic party, but he largely began to vote like other Democrats on race issues. Other more despicable politicians like Helms and Thurmond became Republicans and still used racist appeals to the electorate.

It is fair to point out that Democrats have a terrible history dealing with race. However, you need to be equally intellectually honest about your own party. The “southern strategy” used by both Nixon and Reagan is well documented. Here is a quote from Lee Atwater you can find on Wikipedia: “You start out in 1954 by saying, 'Nigger, nigger, nigger.' By 1968 you can't say 'nigger' - that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

Darren said...

And these same Democrats abuse Condoleeza Rice and General Powell for having the gall to be Republicans and/or to work for Republicans. The term "house nigger" has been used more than once to describe both of them, and not by folks on my side of the political divide. Michelle Malkin, a conservative Filipina, gets called worse.

I'm not buying it, "anonymous".

Darren said...

Also, we need to look at the Democrat Party and its actions at the '68 convention. They refused to seat some Southern delegations? How did that happen?

It certainly provides another reason for Southerners to have left the Democrat Party.

And isn't the party doing the same thing this year, not allowing some delegations to be seated because the states moved their primaries forward to a date "unapproved" by the DNC?