Winston Churchill, while paraphrasing the philosopher Santayana, said, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” So many Republican-led states, who are trying desperately to suppress the vote, are now trying to leave out important eras of American history.
By avoiding controversial topics like past racism, slavery and Jim Crow, teachers are being forced to lie to students. How can today’s students become tomorrow’s informed electorate without knowing the history of voter suppression in this country?
I was lucky enough to have taught American history and American political science at Riverside-Brookfield High School for almost four decades. My immediate bosses and school boards even allowed me to create an elective class that dealt with recent Chicago history. That class included much discussion about racism.
Teenagers love controversy and they love learning that their past presidents and heroes were flawed human beings. They also love thinking for themselves and coming to their own conclusions. But they cannot do that unless they are armed with all facts, no matter how unpleasant or divisive the adults around them think they are.
If teaching the truth in these states will get them fired, teachers should consider moving to a state that welcomes debate. The purpose of a well-rounded education is to create good citizens. That cannot be done if teachers are censored.
Jan Goldberg, Riverside