9 comments
  1. Thank you for your honest reflection about the conversation with your son. We have made him into a cartoon character and educators like you who keep the real man in the proper context. It's difficult to face our history, but it's so important to remind students where we've been so there is greater appreciation for today and tomorrow.

    Be Great,

    Dwight

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    1. Thanks! It's hard to fight against the cartoon version, because that version is so nice and so unoffensive.

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  2. We turn all of our historical figures into little figurines that fit nicely into our pockets. Washington had the cherry tree, Lincoln simply freed the slaves, Helen Keller was blind and deaf, Rosa Parks was some little old lady on a bus who wasn't protesting a thing (*eyeroll*) ... I could go on. We don't want people to see our characters for who they are because: A) there's not enough time for in-depth exploration in the curriculum; B) showing how flawed our historical heroes are doesn't forward "American Exceptionalism;" and C) it, quite frankly, makes people uncomfortable to think of those "heroes" as anything less than what they see when they see their figurine.

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    1. Yep.

      Although I always like pointing out the holes in the myths when I could teaching US History.

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    2. That's the best way to teach history! Heroes only become heroic when we see that they were also anti-heroes.

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  3. Thank you for this post. I have to assume that there are people at John's school who, if they know he is trying to turn Dr. King from a cartoon character back into a man, are very upset. People sometimes like their myths and their heroes more than they like reality. You are a talented teacher if you are able to get students to see complexity and ambiguity; you are a lucky teacher if your school even just tolerates such pedagogy. If you work in a place that encourages it, let me know when there's an opening.

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    1. I'm guessing there are a few people who might rip me for it. So far it hasn't been a big issue, though.

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  4. "And I squirm, knowing that I’m coming from the power culture, that so much of it is just white noise to me. I get restless and nervous, knowing that I benefit from the culture that turned Dr. King into a cartoon."

    Thank you for saying this. I too struggle constantly with how to deal with the fact of my own privilege...it can be very hard as a white teacher with students of color to have a clue how to approach some of these complex issues. I'm not teaching US history currently, but I am teaching AP US government, and boy, does it come up a lot. I am blessed to have some incredibly brave students who often speak out and address their peers misconceptions and privilege before I can even formulate a good response. When that happens I try to remember to show my support but otherwise let them handle it--nothing worse than trying to jump in on their experience.

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    1. It sounds like you are a phenomenal history / government teacher. Those are the teachers students remember and those are the ones who help develop democratic citizens.

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Please leave a comment. I enjoy the conversation.