Why we need to teach real US history

I have written multiple times before how US history is taught in schools in a completely sanitized form that distorts and erases what truly happened. People are given a rose-tinted view of the past, especially when it comes to the brutality that was inflicted on black people during the time of slavery and all the way to the present. This is why there is such reluctance by some to accept that the confederacy was actually a very bad thing and should not be honored in any way. The same holds true for the treatment of Native Americans.

In another excellent program, John Oliver looks at all the problems with the way US history is taught and offers suggestions for how it should be taught,


  1. billseymour says

    Although I fancy myself a liberal, I confess that I knew about neither Juneteenth nor the Tulsa massacre until recently. I need to own that and fix it.

  2. mailliw says

    I am currently working my way through Hugh Thomas’s highly detailed and monumental (at page 1500 I’m half way through) The Slave Trade.

    I remember watching the film The Alamo with John Wayne as a child, and hearing the song Remember the Alamo.

    What I learned from Hugh Thomas’s book is that one important motive for Texan independence was that Mexico had abolished slavery and Texas wanted it to be continued.

  3. KG says

    Similar issues arise in the UK. A bunch of British historians recently wrote an open letter about the “history” contained in materials that applicants for citizenship are expected to be familiar with (there’s a test as part of the application process). Apparently Britain’s role in opposing the slave trade in the 19th century is covered, the scale of its participation in the trade, in slavery itself, and in systems of bonded labour after slavery was formally abolished in the Empire, are not. The impression is given that the dissolution of the Empire was simply the result of Britain deciding it was the right thing to do and generously giving the colonies their freedom.

  4. mailliw says

    Similar issues arise in the UK.

    True, in spite of the extraordinary determination and stamina of Wilberforce, Pitt and Clarkson in pursuit of abolition, British businesses continued to invest in the slave trade.

    The British industrial revolution was built on cotton and almost all of that cotton came from the slave owning southern States of the US.

    Prominent historical figures like Horatio Nelson were vehemently against abolition.

  5. mailliw says

    @6 jkrideau

    Clarkson was the resolute and determined researcher, who travelled the country in search of evidence against the slave trade and those who engaged in it.

    He went to Bristol, England with the intent of interviewing slave captains, without much success. As the town clerk said to him -- he only knew of one slave captain in the city who didn’t deserve to be hanged.

  6. says

    What really got me in that video was the man shouting he wants his kids to learn “the worst day in America beats the best day in any other country”. I mean, how delusional and/or ignorant must one be to believe such patent nonsense? And the people cheered, instead of telling him that he is daft and silly beyond measure.

    Just one common America thing that can really, really mess one’s day, and indeed life -- medical bankruptcy -- is all but unknown in the whole of EU and indeed in any other “first world” country. It might still happen, in some extremely rare circumstances someone could get an illness with treatment so expensive that the state-funded socialized healthcare cannot pay for it, but we are talking about diseases that happen once per hundreds of thousands or even millions. So people who are thus affected can generally be counted on your fingers and whilst each of those cases is a personal tragedy, absolutely no system is perfect and tragedies will happen. But it certainly beasts the USA which has about a million such bancruptcies every single year and often for illnesses that can be -- and are -- cheaply and effectively treated or managed.

    Another thing- mass shootings. If I recall correctly, they happen about twice a week in the USA. And they happen about twice a year in Europe.

    Gini Index measuring inequality is in the USA is similar to many developing countries and higher than in most of the EU.

    And the list can go on and on and on.

    The USA beats the rest of the world hands down really in one thing and one thing only -- in exporting ignorance and malicious stupidity.

  7. bmiller says

    Charly: See in particular our promotion of particularly noxious forms of fundamentalist Christianity. We are the Saudi Arabia of Christianity.

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    I would seriously worry about the safety of teachers who dared to give students in much of the country the hard facts of US history.

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