Most of what passes for history in contemporary education is pure, unexpurgated propaganda. From James Bovard at aier.org:
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten recently proclaimed that her union members have a right to teach “honest history” in government classrooms. But putting politicians, bureaucrats, and union zealots in charge of a curriculum is the worst recipe for candor. Rather than truth, the likely result will be vaccinating young Americans from recognizing how Leviathan imperils their liberty.
Weingarten’s protests were spurred by the backlash in some states against Critical Race Theory (CRT), the latest politically correct fad from activist educators. CRT received a steroid boost from the New York Times’ 1619 series, which ludicrously claimed that the American Revolution was fought to preserve slavery (AIER’s Phil Magness debunked that charade in many articles and in this book). According to Weingarten and other CRT proponents, American schools criminally ignore the racial abuses in American history. However, the vast majority of state curriculums already teach that slavery was an abomination and a national disgrace.
Weingarten boasted, “We teach history, not hate.” But, for decades, teachers and government schools have dismally failed to teach students history. Surveys show that most public school students are historically illiterate, clueless on the key events and major issues of American history. Public schools have long disdained mere historical facts, preferring instead vapid narratives that resemble “good versus evil” fairy tales. Because students are mostly clueless on history, they are blank slates ready to be indoctrinated with any claptrap that schools hustle.
Most of what’s taught in schools these days is propaganda, and history classes may be the worst offender. From Ryan McMaken at mises.org:
An Illinois politicians wants the state board of education to get rid of history classes until the curriculum can be made less racist. The local NBC affiliate reports:
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….
Before the event Sunday, Rep. Ford’s office distributed a news release “Rep. Ford Today in Evanston to Call for the Abolishment of History Classes in Illinois Schools,” in which Ford asked the ISBOE and school districts to immediately remove history curriculum and books that “unfairly communicate” history “until a suitable alternative is developed.”
There are both good ideas and bad ideas here.
First of all, it’s unclear in what way exactly history as taught in Illinois—as critics put it—”overlook[s] the contributions of women and minorities”
In practice, history as taught in most schools overlooks the good deeds of a wide variety of good people—not just ones who are women or members of certain ethnic groups. The usual history curriculum focuses overwhelmingly on politicians, military personnel and other government employees, who are supposedly the people who make the most important contributions, and allegedly make life livable for the rest of us. The private sector is generally ignored, including all the entrepreneurs, workers, business owners and managers who actually did the hard work of improving the lives and standards of living of countless human beings. Whenever business owners are mentioned, its usually as some sort of evil “robber baron” or similar caricature. If workers are mentioned, it is only nonspecific workers in a Marxian context.