Politicians Writing History

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Legislators are making themselves into history professors
again and that is probably not a good thing. Days before the Assembly Education
Committee meets on SB 48, which would require school textbooks to include the
role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender Americans, and
persons with disabilities, the Department of Education released the 2010
National Assessment of Educational Progress, which reported that only 12% of
high school seniors have a firm grasp of the nation’s history.

How are the two issues connected? As eminent historian,
David McCullough recently told the Wall
Street Journal
, one of the problems resulting in the poor understanding of
history is that, "History is often taught in categories – women’s history, African
American history, environmental history…."

The categories come from political meddling. California law
provides a long list of groups required to be treated in textbooks. The Los
Angeles Times editorialized
against SB 48
, stating, "Years ago, California made the wise
decision to have experts draw up a balanced social studies curriculum that
became a model for schools nationwide. Legislators aren’t improving education
in the state by stuffing the curriculum with new politically correct
requirements…."

The Times went on to show requirements of how people are
portrayed:  "So poor people aren’t poor
and the elderly are physically fit and financially sound, according to the
textbooks – and we complain that students are poorly educated."

McCullough also complained that politically inspired
dictates caused problems with understanding history. Textbooks have become "so
politically correct as to be comic. Very minor characters are currently
fashionable, are given considerable space, whereas people of consequence
farther back are given very little space or none at all."

This is not to say that textbook writers should overlook
discussions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and persons with
disabilities. However, historians and experts should make the
call.

Advocates for SB 48 might complain that if the measure is
defeated, while measures, which ordered inclusion of various minority
communities are already on the books, that the gay community and disability
community are being discriminated against again. They would have a point.

The way to deal with the situation would be to repeal
mandates already passed that demanded specific communities be included in
textbooks and shown in a certain light. Then allow historians, not politicians,
to write our history.

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