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It’s not even a bill yet, Ted

Monday, Aug 3, 2020

* It never ceases to amazes me how DC types seem to have all this extra time on their hands…


* The story

Leaders in education, politics and other areas gathered in suburban Evanston Sunday to ask that the Illinois State Board of Education change the history curriculum at schools statewide, and temporarily halt instruction until an alternative is decided upon.

At a news conference, State Rep. LaShawn K. Ford said current history teachings lead to a racist society and overlook the contributions of women and minorities.

John Oliver ran a segment last night on this very topic. Click here to watch it, but just know beforehand there’s some naughty words that your coworkers might not wanna hear.

That segment got me to thinking about the tremendous amount of crud that was taught to me in high school - and none of it was in math class, or science, or English. Almost all history. Thank goodness I had parents who were both interested in the topic and strongly urged their kids to seek out more than what we were spoon-fed in school.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

55 Comments
  1. - tomhail - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 9:44 am:

    Link is not John Oliver.


  2. - Bruce( no not him) - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 9:46 am:

    Those who do not learn from history etc etc etc


  3. - Rich Miller - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 9:47 am:

    tomhail, thanks. Fixed.


  4. - OneMan - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 9:48 am:

    You can talk about the ‘bad’ parts of history and do it very well inside the larger narrative. The Canadians do this all the time in their museums and whilst they may not be as jingoistic as their neighbors to the south, they seem to be able to continue on as a democracy.


  5. - Steve Rogers - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 9:57 am:

    There’s a reason history isn’t taught properly in the schools. It’s taught as memorizing dates and facts. Plus, with the heavier emphasis on math and science, the social studies, particularly history, have taken a back seat. The correct study of history promotes critical thinking, writing skills, composing an argument, and problem solving. Instead, kids just have to memorize the Gettysburg Address or the amendments to the Constitution, and you’re good to go. Improve the history curriculum and you improve knowledge and civic engagement.


  6. - Big Jer - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:06 am:

    ——What Steve Rogers said—–

    Also, this post is one reason why Howard Zinn’s The People’s History of the United States is so popular.


  7. - CubsFan16 - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:07 am:

    “At a news conference, State Rep. LaShawn K. Ford said current history teachings lead to a racist society” … yes, Rep. Ford, racism exists because of Sophomore U.S history books.


  8. - Chatham Resident - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:09 am:

    ==That segment got me to thinking about the tremendous amount of crud that was taught to me in high school==

    Rich–when I saw your phrase, I immediately thought of the opening line to singer Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome.” Which included the other C word.


  9. - Interim Retiree - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:09 am:

    Steve Rogers - maybe when you were in school but not in today’s world. Most districts will have students critically look at historical documents, discuss & compare/contrast the various views at that time, etc. The why is as or more important than the what. All depends upon how good the teacher is, too.


  10. - Rich Miller - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:10 am:

    ===racism exists because of Sophomore U.S history books===

    Nobody said that. Y’all are always looking for loopholes.


  11. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:12 am:

    I know that legislators think that the solution to every problem is a new law.
    But we should let professionals decide curriculum. Both parties keep pushing social agenda in curriculum demands on teachers.
    Perhaps we should focus on hiring quality teachers and then respecting their professionalism to teach in the most responsible way?


  12. - Levois J - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:13 am:

    Probably off topic, I had a teacher back in the day when I was in the 8th grade who suggested all Indigenous Americans south of the border so basically from Mexico on down were all mixed. Without internet I knew better and we weren’t doing very well at the time so I could’ve challenged him if I wanted to. I think the best approach if you’re concerned about history is to tell them to seek out more than what they were spoon fed in school. I don’t know if abolishing history class in the whole states education system is the solution. And yes I do agree perhaps we need more minority history in schools.


  13. - Ron Burgundy - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:14 am:

    Certainly a thorough review and changes to the history curriculum are warranted, but there is no need to halt instruction, and I’m sure the teachers’ unions would object.

    Post title is “Excellent” by the way.


  14. - City Zen - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:16 am:

    What better time to think of revamping an entire subject across multiple grades levels than one month before school starts during a pandemic.


  15. - Rich Miller - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:19 am:

    ===What better time to think of revamping an entire subject across multiple grades levels than one month before school starts during a pandemic. ===

    The GA isn’t in session until November. There’s no way a bill like that with an immediate effective date could pass. It’s just an idea for the foreseeable future.


  16. - CubsFan16 - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:21 am:

    Rich, Rep. Ford explicitly makes it about books in his full statement. “I’m calling on the Illinois State Board of Education and local school districts to take immediate action by removing current history books and curriculum practices that unfairly communicate our history.”


  17. - Dancing Bears - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:21 am:

    ===racism exists because of Sophomore U.S history books===

    This is such a lazy attempt at arguing. It isn’t that history textbooks are directly teaching people to be racist, but they often omit extremely important events and details that put the history of our country in some idealistic bubble that doesn’t actually exist.


  18. - Transplant - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:23 am:

    When my youngest was in the 8th Grade she had a teacher (not Science) who told students the Earth was 7,000 years old and dinosaurs and man were on the planet at the same time!


  19. - Rich Miller - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:29 am:

    ===Rep. Ford explicitly makes it about books in his full statement===

    So?


  20. - Cook county thinker - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:30 am:

    Representative Ford seems to think that Illinois classrooms are run by conservatives teaching the great man theory of history. The 1619 Project has been adopted by CPS.


  21. - Rich Miller - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:30 am:

    ===This is such a lazy attempt at arguing===

    Exactly right.

    People need to stop looking for ways to excuse or dismiss racism. If you can’t see it, you’re part of the problem.


  22. - TinyDancer(FKASue) - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:31 am:

    Part of the problem is explained in this book :

    “Lies My Teacher Told Me : Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong” by James Loewen.

    After examining a series of high school history textbooks, Loewen found incorrect information, including the same incorrect paragraphs (word-for-word) in a few of them.

    Another problem is the textbook publishers.


  23. - thunderspirit - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:35 am:

    History isn’t part of the curriculum in a great many K-12 schools. Instead, it’s Patriotism 101.

    To learn about what actually happened, the curious often need to find their own resources.


  24. - Rich Miller - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:35 am:

    ===adopted by CPS===

    Think it’s been adopted in Anna?


  25. - Handy Lauren - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:36 am:

    This is a talking point Betsy Londrigan is going to run on and win.


  26. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:37 am:

    Part of the blame here should go to NBC Chicago for that click-bait headline. Had it said “Chicago-area leader calls for revamping of subject matter in History classes”, it probably wouldn’t have triggered Sen. Cruz (and matched what Rep. Ford actually called for).

    Also, Ford’s request may be hard to pull off - don’t the publishers of junior and high school textbooks take their marching orders from the Texas Board of Education, simply because it’s the largest purchaser of textbooks in the U.S.? I know there is a big fight every few years over subject matter in Texas, since it’ll eventually end up being taught to children all over the country.


  27. - TinyDancer(FKASue) - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:39 am:

    =When my youngest was in the 8th Grade she had a teacher (not Science) who told students the Earth was 7,000 years old and dinosaurs and man were on the planet at the same time!=

    So, that brings us to the publishers.
    States have textbook adoption committees.
    Publishers don’t want to create 50 different textbooks, so they go with the textbook adoption committees of the biggest states:
    California and Texas.
    Hmmmmm………wonder which state came up with the creation theory.


  28. - Blue to the Bone - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:39 am:

    On a similar note and a a resident of 60134, I was pleased to see this in the local paper last week. Hopefully, the school board provides more than just lip service.

    https://www.kcchronicle.com/2020/07/23/more-than-1-700-geneva-students-graduates-ask-for-more-diversity/ar1dgyh/


  29. - Huh? - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:47 am:

    Someone once said that history is written by the victor.

    The societal injustices of the past won’t be ameliorated overnight.


  30. - 1st Ward - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 10:51 am:

    The dumb headline by NBC is how the statue warriors become relevant “look they are erasing history now”.


  31. - TinyDancer(FKASue) - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 11:08 am:

    History is fascinating, yet most history books are totally boring. And emphasis on memorizing names and dates is great….if you have insomnia.

    Best way to teach history is to have the kids read and discuss books (not textbooks) in small groups and create projects - artwork, dramatizations, songs, diary entries, etc. (Reading and writing across the curriculum.)
    There are so many wonderful books out there at all reading levels, including wonderful nonfiction picture books that have interesting and fun new information even for adults.


  32. - Rudy’s teeth - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 11:09 am:

    Can students read at grade level to comprehend the ideas presented in the materials? Do they take notes, compare/contrast, summarize, present a rebuttal? Anyone, anyone.


  33. - City Guy - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 11:14 am:

    Two upvotes for TinyDancer. The book, Lies are Teachers Taught Us, is great for understanding how history is taught and how it changes with time. For instance Wilson was considered one of the greatest presidents after WWII because the League of Nations was the precursor to the United Nations. By the late 60s, his racist actions as president made his reputation decline.

    The scond part is that history is taught in a boring manner. It also leaves out social history. I think kids would be more interested in understand how homes evolved with time (Home is great book) rather than learning the names of the Kings and Queens of England.


  34. - Cheryl44 - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 11:20 am:

    Ted Cruz. Meh


  35. - Nick Name - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 11:40 am:

    1. Stay in your own lane, Ted. Plenty going on in Texas to keep you busy.

    2. Rep. Ford is exactly right. Aside from small units on slavery, the Civil War, and a few mentions segregation, there is almost no mention of racial strife and oppression in U.S. history books. I had never even heard of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre - the single biggest race atrocity in American history. Time to end ongoing cover up that passes for history instruction in American schools.

    3. ===some naughty words that your coworkers might not wanna hear.===

    Remoting from home, my only “coworker” is my dachshund. He won’t mind. :)


  36. - Big Mike - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 11:40 am:

    Growing up on Chicago’s South Side I learned about
    race relations at home, from friends and family not from and history books. U.S. history is not an easy
    and requires a lot of reading. As long as the schools are more concerned about STEM, history will
    not be taken seriously.


  37. - Nick Name - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 11:44 am:

    *I had never even heard of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre - the single biggest race atrocity in American history - until I read about it on Facebook.

    Ugh. Sorry for the omission.


  38. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 11:46 am:

    Real history is based on primary sources. Historians fight tooth and nail over the meaning and context of those primary sources.
    I always felt a good way to introduce a love of history in young people was to give them an assignment where they research their own primary sources, for example something their parents mentioned to them, or how a part of the city got built, etc, formulate a history and write a paper defending that history.


  39. - Chatham Resident - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 11:58 am:

    ==*I had never even heard of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre - the single biggest race atrocity in American history==

    Let alone these race riots close to home: Springfield (1908, resulted in birth of NAACP), East St. Louis (1917), and Chicago (1919). Maybe a history textbook made a passing mention to at least one of these riots throughout my HS, College, and even grad school years–but not until my adulthood was I able to learn and understand about these local race atrocities.


  40. - Nick Name - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 12:06 pm:

    ===Maybe a history textbook made a passing mention to at least one of these riots===

    I went to high school in Jacksonville and not even the Springfield race riot was mentioned. This is inexcusable.


  41. - JS Mill - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 12:17 pm:

    =There’s a reason history isn’t taught properly in the schools.=

    you are correct there is a reason that SOME are not teaching it properly.

    Rep Ford is a part of that problem too. Maybe not him specifically, but take a look at the legislation on required topics. They keep adding and never remove anything.

    I wish many of you could go take a history class (not being snarky) and see how many of our teachers are doing it right. The move to use primary source documents began in earnest 25 years ago when I was teaching. The good ones are using experiential learning as well, getting kids out of their comfort zone and communities via the internet. We need to continue to focus on using video and book excerpts rather than a full book or movie (no time for that).

    And the legislature needs to get out of the business of curriculum, let the ISBE address this (not local district either or we will see more intelligent design nonsense) or it will be a mish mash of peoples pet topics.


  42. - Question - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 12:21 pm:

    I have a question on this. And I definitely agree that I was taught a lot of incorrect and even sometimes dangerous info in history class… but as someone who is now an American History fanatic — I am worried that a suspension of history classes, even if it’s just temporary while we figure out how to make the curriculum more equitable, might lead to kids just not being interested in History at all?

    I was fortunate enough to have a few really good teachers who pressed the importance of doing independent research into all things historical. I’m worried that without history classes, our students could be more vulnerable to just following whatever historical “facts” (fictions) they read online.

    Idk, I’m not sure what the answer is here. Probably involves a vast makeover of the way we teach history in schools — no doubt. But without history classes, how will we get kids interested enough to do their own research?

    Sorry if this is rambly.


  43. - City Guy - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 12:48 pm:

    The Springfield Race Riot wasn’t really discussed or documented until James Krohe Jr. wrote about it in the 1970s.

    I wonder how many people in Springfield know that John L. Lewis, one of the most important union leaders in U.S. history, lived at 1132 West Lawrence Avenue in Springfield from 1917 to 1965.


  44. - Excitable Boy - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 12:49 pm:

    I grew up 45 minutes from Springfield and learned about the 1908 race riot by reading a biography of Clarence Darrow in my 20s. And I had some excellent teachers, FWIW.

    This is exactly the discussion we need to be having at exactly the right time. I get so sick of explaining to my friends that honoring people like Jefferson isn’t the same as learning about them.

    While we’re at it I’d like to see the volume turned down a bit on the constant STEM mantra. To me it turns kids off of subjects like history and literature that are important for well rounded development. I also suspect it alienates students that just don’t have a knack for STEM subjects.


  45. - school board member - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 12:55 pm:

    Illinois School Code requires: the curriculum includes instruction as determined by the
    Superintendent or designee on Black History, including the history of the African
    slave trade, slavery in America, and the vestiges of slavery in this country, as
    well as the struggles and contributions of African-Americans. 105 ILCS 5/27-20.4 “study of the role and contributions of African Americans and other ethnic groups, including, but not restricted to, Polish, Lithuanian, German, Hungarian, Irish, Bohemian, Russian, Albanian, Italian, Czech, Slovak, French, Scots, Hispanics, Asian Americans, etc.” 105 ILCS 5/27-21


  46. - Anyone Remember - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 1:03 pm:

    History textbook publishers can’t tell anything close to the truth … without running afoul of the Texicans. As overly political as Illinois is, at least we don’t elect via political means the people who choose our textbooks.

    https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/january-2019/texas-revises-history-education-again-how-a-good-faith-process-became-political


  47. - Friend of the Family - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 2:09 pm:

    John Oliver is entertainment, not news or information worthy of any academic type discussion; he has an agenda and can be facetious in his presentations.

    This is a complicated debate. For many who are not aware, people of all walks of life see schools as an opportunity to indoctrinate children, something that Representative Ford is intellectually honest about; which is refreshing. This why there are passionate debates about the content of history books.

    A fun fact is that historians regularly argue about the content of history and change narratives regularly. So maybe, just maybe, schools need to teach people to be life long learners who continue to learn about subjects that are “introduced” in school, rather than passive recipients of garbage from outdated textbooks and by the likes of entertainers, like John Oliver. Too many people get their history from Movies and TV and stories “based” on history, rather than from an original source.


  48. - Mr. Green Genes - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 2:13 pm:

    == History textbook publishers can’t tell anything close to the truth … without running afoul of the Texicans.==
    Get rid of the textbooks then. Have the kids read books about history written by historians. Textbooks are too heavy, too expensive and too agenda driven.


  49. - Enemy of the State - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 2:19 pm:

    School board member is getting close. Ironically, the study of History is plagued by time. I spent 33 years teaching history. The first problem is that there are 36 weeks in the school year. My last U. S. History book had 58 chapters. And topics get left out to make room for all of the new voices. Try to find a book that mentions George Rogers Clark. A semester or two of Illinois History is offered by a few districts but standardized testing crowds local topics out. Oh, I don’t want to forget hormones. Pretty hard to keep interest up when the prom is next week.


  50. - Bigtwich - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 2:50 pm:

    - City Guy -

    Interesting about John L. Lewis. Since we are discussing history education I will mention that while Springfield claims he lived in Springfield from 1917 till 1935, https://www.springfield.il.us/Departments/OPED/Historical/JohnJLewisHouse.aspx , other sources claim he lived elsewhere after 1937, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_L._Lewis . They all agree he is buried in Springfield. Anyway, I did not know this. Thanks.


  51. - in the no - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 2:53 pm:

    Huh? at 10:47: Unfortunately, much of the public’s “knowledge” of the role race has played in American history has been written & continues to be edited and improved, by the LOSERS. It’s not merely tolerated - it’s now expected. When did this become acceptable? No other society would allow it. Apologists for & promoters of the “Lost Cause” & its still vibrant progeny of racist laws, institutions, & “states rights” have controlled OUR national narrative for a century & a half. Now they call it “heritage” & demand that we lay off the reality? Do they understand the heritage of the winners? Give you a hint: they lost bigly. No one’s saying that societal injustices must be cured overnight, but really, it’s been a minute.


  52. - North Shore Joe - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 4:01 pm:

    No one seems to have pointed out the reason for the major disconnect: Mr. Ford’s press release touted his push to “abolish” history classes–not temporarily suspend while the curriculum is altered. Either his office was looking for a splash headline, or they aren’t aware of the difference between a suspension and abolishment.

    This is a trend these days, a prime example being “defund” versus “reform”


  53. - Mama - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 5:06 pm:

    Does Ted Cruz live in IL? If no, why in the heck is he telling IL what to do?


  54. - GDUB - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 5:33 pm:

    I grew up in Oklahoma, where we were required by state law to take a semester of Oklahoma History. I learned all about the Five Civilized Tribes [sic], the land runs, and ballet dancer Maria Tallchief. The Tulsa Race Massacre was not mentioned.


  55. - Rasselas - Monday, Aug 3, 20 @ 5:51 pm:

    In the 60/70s in Chicagoland, I was taught that ‘Radical Republican’ ‘carpetbaggers’ from the North and scalawags in the South joined with incompetent freed slaves to oppress Southern Whites through 12 years of Reconstruction, until the pushback of the KKK and others restored democracy.

    I always wonder/worry how many of my classmates are still walking around thinking that’s what happened.


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