Thanksgiving rears its ugly head

Bunny’s post hit a nerve. She says exactly what I’ve said in the teeth of massive denial on the part of some List members: kids know when you don’t like them or something about them. Few teachers feel hostility; few actively dislike a kid. What we get is a kind of disconnect (a fresh and useful word, IMHO). Teachers need to work on connecting to kids; if they don’t connect, it can be very destructive.

My grandson’s teacher is about to be put to the test. This arose b/c of Thanksgiving. He is in first grade. The teacher presented the Pilgrims. Having a brown mommy and a black meema (grandmother), he asked his mom where the brown and black people were.

And thus it starts, little by little, the alienation b/c the teacher hasn’t had time to read the NYT bestseller Many Thousands Gone or any of the major works on Africans in the New World and so she cannot give the full picture. Now the test is this: I will offer to do a 10 minute presentation on the sailors, farmers, fishermen, explorers, and other personages of African descent that were all over the Americas by 1621. the year of the first Thanksgiving. I worked in the district for 20 years and still hold a certificate endorsed for social studies and am certified as a sub in the district. Do you think I qualify?

But do ethnic minorities of color fit into the curriculum? Is the teacher comfortable talking about minorities? Is the teacher comfortable having a (grand)parent in the classroom? And why doesn’t the teacher know this material?

This teacher happens to be good and will probably be happy to present something or have me present it. And under either my argument – that Americans don’t like dealing with ’ethnic minorities of color’ – or David’s (a member of the Listserv I am responding to – that such knowledge has been corrupted by identity politics and Marxist interpretations – we wind up with the same problem: ethnic minority of color students like my grandson slowly feeling left out.

BTW, Bunny, the poster I am responding to, thought her phrase (ethnic minority of color students) clumsy, yet it only partially covers what we are talking about: these are ethnic groups, not races; they are minorities in the U.S. population; that they have dark skin is crucial in the social history of this country so that must be specified; and even that fails to distinguish the special history of Asian-Americans who underwent a different shock than did the Native Americans, African-Americans, and Hispanic-Americans.

The issue is exceedingly complex. I do not see that either our public schools or our universities are addressing the make-up of our country (or the world). When all is said and done, it is still possible to take social studies classes in school, take history survey courses in college, and still come out with the notion that the only people of consequence, at least in the Americas, were those of European origin.

I remember wanting to delve into the history of the Dutch people, of the Netherlands when I was taking a history class in college. The book I found simply recounted the political role of the leaders and their wars. When I asked the professor if he knew of something that dealt more with how the people in general lived, he replied that kings and other leaders and their activities was what history was. What I wanted to know about wasn’t history.

The success and excitement of history over the last 50 years has been the uncovering of how our society got to be the way it is. Sure Thomas Jefferson and John D. Rockefeller were important but so were the workers and artists and travellers and salesmen and soldiers and especially the banjo players! And as we look at those who may have been leaders in their communities or fields of endeavors or just in their families, we can see not just Europeans but others as well. That is what has been missing and is now being addressed, however slowly it may be reaching people like my grandson’s teacher.

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