Simply put, the American attention span only permits so many topics at a time. And, because we're reductionists, we only like to canonize so many controversies at a time, too. So long as everyone's attention is focused on the science classroom, no one is paying any attention to what's going on in the history classroom. And this, brothers and sisters, is where our attention should be.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a history major and so I naturally bring a certain bias to this subject. That said, I believe you will find my reasoning quite sound and impervious to any inevitable ad hominem attacks.
When President Reagan took office, he put forth a directive to the department of education to put a positive spin on all things American. For the Gipper, pro-American optimism went beyond a campaign slogan; it was tantamount to a religion. To be fair, the president sincerely believed in the good of our people and our ideals--and he should have. I believe we all want to feel that sense of pride in our nation. Where Mr. Reagan and I diverge on the subject is the extent to which our public educators have taken their instruction of history.
All too often, as I took notes and followed classroom discussion while earning my bachelor of arts degree, I heard from one classmate after another that they were being exposed to darker, less pleasant parts of our past for the first time. "Why weren't we told about this in high school?" they implored. If the truth does indeed set us free, then sadly many of us exit our mandatory public education enslaved to ignorance.
For instance, why do we continue to exalt Thomas Edison as a brilliant innovator while simultaneously shielding from our youth the scores of African-Americans whose ideas were outright stolen and passed off as someone else's? If we are serious about providing our minority youths with a positive image of their race--and, hence, themselves--then why do we not acknowledge these creative, pioneering men and women and right the historical wrong that has been committed thus far by slighting them? How can we ever expect our youth to understand why so many across the globe resent us to the point of committing acts of violence against us, when we omit, or whitewash, our track record of intervention in Latin America and east Asia?
Of course, the moment anyone brings up these and related questions, they are instantly branded a member of the "blame America first" crowd. I disagree with that assessment entirely. Owning up to the truth does not mean being anti-American. Remember truth, justice and the American way? How has it been that we have abdicated our obligation to them? They fear that discussing such things will fragment our society; they resent "hyphenated-Americans" and deny the patriotism of such citizens.
If our great nation is great, then it is so because it is the melting pot of humanity. We should be a microcosm for our entire planet, and instead what has happened in my generation? Those who embrace their own heritage have been told they are not true Americans. And as this litmus test for embracing the untruth has been enforced on our own people, the rest of the world has grown to resent us. This is not because those across the world care that our youth are not told the truth about our past, but because our youth are growing up without developing the humility and cultural sensitivity that come from a proper instruction in history.
Until and unless we, as a society, recognize and commit to revising this injustice of academia, so we shall continue to not only commit our society to arrogance and ignorance, but also to an escalation of both.