(I originally posted this at The American Catholic and I thought the history mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)
Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts takes a look at the old Schoolhouse Rock video Elbow Room:
We watched this with our youngest while back, and my older boys – having come in contact with modern educational standards – dropped their jaws. We had it when they were little, but didn’t watch it that much. When we watched it this time, they said wow, did you really learn that Westward expansion was a good thing? When they were in school, this was compared to Lebensraum. Manifest Destiny? That’s like praising Mein Kampf. Did we really think it was good?
Yeah, we did. Not that we didn’t admit to the bad. I remember learning about the Trail of Tears all the way back in the mid-70s. And we weren’t the first to generation hear about it. Same with slavery. It isn’t as if Americans thought slavery was an awesome chapter in our history before Roots. America has been wrestling with the more sordid episodes in its history pretty much from the beginning. Heck, we even learned that Manifest Destiny wasn’t all that and a bag of chips. What makes it different today is that there is nothing but sheer condemnation. We were not a great nation with evil and injustice in its past, increasingly we are seen as an evil, racist nation with only the slightest hope of redeeming itself.
It would be better if we learned American history the way we learn about Islam. Their high school World History book laid out the template. Sure, the Islamic world launched invasions and conquests, indulged in a vibrant slave trade and even made multiple attempts at invading Europe. But let’s not dwell on the negatives (which the textbook didn’t). Those don’t define Islam. Most of the lesson was on the nuts and bolts, or on the positives. Which is good. If only we applied that standard to US history, imagine how youngsters might see things today. (more…)