Both Christie and I have Native American and European ancestry, and I just assumed in this enlightened age of political correctness, there would be a good history text for kids out there that recorded both perspectives.
Boy was I wrong. If your kid is coming home from public school with a McGraw Hill, Am-Ed, or Houghton Mifflin American History text, you need to ask for your money back (see if you can get mine too while you're at it).
Why the heck are these books so Eurocentric? (Okay, maybe I made up that word). In 2011, we're still calling the Pilgrims "settlers" - as if there were no settlements of Native Americans when they arrived. I would have also thought it was common knowledge by now that the Pilgrims weren't the first "settlers" in the "New World." It wasn't new to the millions of Natives, or the Norse and Spanish who had settled there hundreds of years earlier. Why no mention of Leif Erickson or the early Spanish adventurers who settled between California and Arkansas, long before Columbus or the Mayflower Company were sparkles in their Daddy's eye? In fact - why in the world are we still talking about the Mayflower Company at all? There was very little significant about their landing, nothing new or unique about their Pact, yet they are afforded a dozen pages in these textbooks to the neglect of earlier settlers, the native settlers. Jamestown was earlier, (as was the FIRST Mayflower company in Maine)...and I was SHOCKED to see a text state that the Mayflower Compact was, "the first time in human history that a group of people consciously crated a government where none had existed before."
Um...how 'bout the Iroquois Confederacy, Sargon's Decree, the Republic of Ireland? ROME? And I'm not even reaching for those - I could name dozens of others that predate the Mayflower Compact. Is it so important to preserve the myth of the First Thanksgiving that we're going to lie to our kids - in school, where they should be developing a clear and global historic worldview? I'd follow the money with this textbook thing if I weren't so disgusted already.
I'm not trying to stir the pot - I just honestly want to know where the history books are that happen to mention the Norse exploits into Greenland, the Native American shipwrecks in Holland in 60 A.D., the African Explorers who discovered the coast of North Carolina before Cortez was playing with toy boats in the bathtub...
I thought we as a nation were more mature than this by now, but all the sample texts I've seen send one disturbing message: "If a White European didn't do it, it ain't worth talking about."
It's bad history at best and shamefully deceptive at worst. The world does not and did not revolve around Europe during the Age of Exploration. I would even argue that modern archaeology demonstrates that they were late to the table. How about an inclusive history text that mentions the explorations of Africans, Norse, Asians, Indians, etc. without trying to make all the white guys into heroes. Newsflash: Read even a semi-honest biography of Columbus or Cortez and you'll start seeing Hannibal Lecter in a more favorable light. These were BAD dudes.
I'm finding this to be the toughest subject to teach the boys so far. I want them to respect our history, and the figures that made it, but more than anything I want them to learn the truth, whether it's Columbus in all his shining glory, or humble Africans crash landing at Charleston two hundred years earlier. No agenda, just history - all of it, the best that we know.
Someone please publish that. I'll buy it.