Opinion: The Erasure of History as a Culture War

By Trevor Hobler, Staff Columnist

In the United States, there is a public education system that provides free access for all children. Education is an undisputed positive aspect of the United States government, and though it isn’t without its flaws, there is no argument as to whether educational services should be provided or not. That was up until a certain topic called “critical race theory” was suddenly at the forefront of national headlines. Educational reform, as supporters call it, is a ploy by conservative news outlets that allow for the reopening of this previously closed discussion about providing all children in America a robust free education. Specifically, an education that includes and accurately depicts the contributions made by marginalized communities throughout American history.

The argument made by people like Tucker Carlson on Fox News was that “the left is indoctrinating your children into their political ideology by means of publicly provided education.” People needed something to latch onto, however, and the drug of choice was critical race theory. This was the perfect candidate because nobody had really ever heard of it before, so whatever people were told about it they would believe, and what they were told is that it is a way to teach American history that portrays America as an inherently racist nation with no room for the overcoming of adversity. It was also said that teachers were making white students feel guilty about the color of their skin. What this claim lacks in truth, it more than makes up for in effectiveness. White parents across the country started attending school board meetings with complaints about their children hating the color of their skin because they were being told to at school. Conservative media had effectively weaponized public education by inciting mass discontent for artificial reasons. 

The conflict escalated beyond the reach of just critical race theory however, and now there are laws like the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida, which effectively bans talking about non-hetero relationships in both literature and mentions from teachers. The grades that this law affects were left deliberately vague so that it could be implemented effectively at all levels of public education. The law was also passed by intentionally misleading parents in the state about what the problems were, framing the LGBTQ+ community as groomers who want to turn their kids gay and trans. The reality of the situation was that children were learning about the existence of queer people. At such a young age awareness could result in less bigoted children, which could be problematic for the blatantly homophobic ruling party in the state.

The series of banning certain parts of public education has been fairly successful for Republicans, but there are always more things to ban, always more information to prevent children from getting. This leads us to the current day, where the College Board has just rewritten parts of their new AP African American Studies course in order to appease Ron DeSantis. Originally, DeSantis outright rejected the class from being taught in Florida, citing the usual “indoctrination” by educating the American youth on anything other than the white, hetero perspective that is traditionally taught in most general history courses. This move by Desantis is obviously in preparation for a presidential bid, and so he is posturing himself as a defender of Florida’s children. The flaw with his claim is that white heterosexual people are not the only ones who lived in this country before 1964.

Americans are taught from a young age about the atrocity that is slavery and Jim Crow segregation, but that racism was made illegal with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In addition to refusing to cover the last sixty years accurately, the coverage of Black issues in the United States is still quite lacking. Surface-level historical understanding is something that might fly in middle school, but as students enter high school they should be exposed to a much more exhaustive version of the American story, one that not only includes, but dives into the atrocities committed by this country. At the very least the students that want to learn about these things should be allowed to, and AP African American Studies was supposed to be a class where they could. Ron DeSantis however had other plans for the state. Instead of allowing this class as an elective, he deemed it better if nobody was able to experience a class about black history because learning a legitimately exhaustive account of American history is “pushing a political agenda.” With College Board facing a decrease in profits, they altered the curriculum for the new course in order to fit into Florida’s guidelines. The alterations to this class include, among other things, making contemporary issues optional. The altered curriculum results in contemporary issues being portrayed as controversial and subjective, downplaying their significance, which means that Jim Crow segregation will be taught as before, but no mention of Black Lives Matter or police brutality will be tolerated unless the district allows it and students decide to choose them for a research project.

The banning of information is cause for concern for a lot of people, as they’re noticing a correlation between children learning and Republicans calling it indoctrination. When a political entity is pushing for a reduction in what can be taught, alarms should always go off, especially when these things are almost exclusively limiting topics around marginalized communities who don’t have the institutional power to fight back. By mitigating the role that African Americans and queer people played in the development of the United States you diminish their calls for justice, and you divide people over the truth of this country’s history. There is no altruistic reason for preventing teachers from teaching reality, but there is deliberate malicious intent behind doctoring American history to downplay these targeted groups’ importance.

Author: Gettysburgian Staff

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1 Comment

  1. Just another one-sided opinion from a staff writer at the Gettysburgian – what a surprise. As soon as I got to the mention of Tucker Carlson in this opinion piece, I put it down – as I said, a one-sided, and close-minded opinion that seems to occur year over year on the staff. Try bringing in opinions from the other side – it may open your minds a bit, but I tend to doubt it!

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