Tennessee Tea Party wants to delete slavery from textbooks

The Tennessee Tea Party thinks slavery is such a small blip in the story of America that they figure, why teach it to kids in school? Ya see, the Founding Fathers were such wonderful gentlemen, and they laid the foundation for this awesome country, and the fact that they owned human beings as chattel is an inconvenient fact. So why teach it at all? Previous attempts to make slavery sound more awesome have included proposing textbooks that teach the kids that it wasn’t slavery but the “Atlantic triangular trade.” Catchy.

It’s certainly true that the founding documents were very complex, particularly the Declaration of Independence, but the fact that the Founding Fathers owned slaves adds to the story. It’s part of the history and it’s important for kids to be taught in context when the text says “life” and “liberty” it doesn’t mean for everyone. Same goes for The Constitution, which included language just to make sure black slaves didn’t ever get it in their heads that they were full humans. Well, actually, that language was included more so the South had more political power, but who really cares about those small details, right?

I’m not entirely sure why American schoolchildren in Tennessee can’t learn both that the country was founded with great promise, and that the promise was only applicable to some people as long as their skin was white and their genitals were male.

Seems to me it would illustrate that we’ve certainly come a long way.

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10 Comments

  1. Posted January 25, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Personally, I’ve always been *more* interesting in learning about people who are flawed and imperfect. The more perfect and god-like someone is portrayed as being, the more boring they are. Any halfway-decent writer of fiction knows that. I hated history in school because of how dull it all seemed. And then I majored in it at college because it was all gossip and airing dirty laundry.

    • Posted January 25, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

      Yes, my cousin says that she get’s disappointed when she hears great figures like JFK and MLK have cheated on their wives (she’s super religious) I say that it makes feel better about whether I’m very good or not and helps me recognize that we are all just flawed human beings.

  2. Posted January 25, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    There was a kind of willful ignorance of the legacy and existence of slavery in the South after the Civil War. It’s a bit like the stab-in-the-back legend (Dolchstoßlegende) in Germany, following its defeat in World War I. If you can blame what happened on someone else, or pretend it didn’t happen at all, you are no longer complicit.

    When groups of people feel persecuted, they often resort to these kinds of mind games. Not to defend them, but here’s an explanation as an attempt to illustrate the point. The South feels to this day that it is the whipping post of the rest of the country, so it produces a natural sort of automatic defensiveness. That’s part of what you see here.

  3. Posted January 25, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Also, reinforcing an attitude of complicity and guilt on any group is bound to produce a backlash. That’s just human nature. People need to teach others about the legacy of slavery, but I doubt there will ever come a time when all people accept it.

    It’s too easy to transpose guilt onto someone else, or use slight-of-hand tricks to will it away. I’m trying to explain why people do these seemingly illogical things, rather than doing what makes the most sense. We like to think we are rational creatures, but with these very emotionally loaded issues, we are not.

  4. Posted January 25, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Teaching about slavery is so important for so many reasons:

    1. Slavery still goes on in the world today. Really.

    2. American slavery is the greatest example we have of how messed up society can be. During the time, the vast majority of white Americans in the south legitimately thought slaves were not people. It’s hard for us to understand that mindset, especially because it was socially acceptable for so long. The lynching exhibit at the Freedom Center does a much better job of explaining this. Teaching about slavery is so important for so many reasons:

    1. Slavery still goes on in the world today. Really.

    2. American slavery is the greatest example we have of how messed up society can be. During the time, the vast majority of white Americans in the south legitimately thought slaves were not people. It’s hard for us to understand that mindset, especially because it was socially acceptable for so long.

    3. Slavery lead to the Civil War. How can anyone teach about the Civil War without mentioning slavery?

    4. We can’t erase slavery from our history, no matter how hard we try.

  5. Posted January 25, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Thanks a lot, Tennessee Tea Party. Thanks for showing me that the human race is doomed.

  6. Posted January 25, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Before everyone gets all in an uproar, this isn’t really current events as far as I can tell. If you look at the Huffington post article on this, they link to this Salon article, http://www.salon.com/2011/01/13/founding_fathers_tennessee_tea_party/ which as you can see is from January of last year, so it seems maybe they made a mistake because I can’t find anything written about this recently. This post I found suggests the same thing, http://www.nashvillescene.com/pitw/archives/2012/01/25/tennessee-tea-party-textbooks-and-slavery-the-best-snowballing-media-scandal-of-last-year

    I can’t find anything on this that’s more current, so it seems to have died away, for the moment at least. That being said, it’s still sad that people would ever think this would be a good idea.

  7. Posted January 25, 2012 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    Hey, great post! The Tea Party really shows it’s feathers sometimes (ha! always) with shit like this.

    Regardless, I’ve been a long time reader but first time commenter. I must take issue with one detail of the post. Please correct me if I’m wrong but was not the language which was included to count slaves as three fifths of a person a measure to make sure the South had *less* power.

    As I was taught, slavery was one of the most contentious issues with respect to the framing of the Constitution. The South wanted slaves counted as full persons in the census so that they could more or less equal the congressional seats of the more populated North, thus ensuring the representation needed in Congress to keep slavery legally in tact. Meanwhile, the North wanted slaves counted as ZERO persons, thus ensuring an anti-slavery majority in Congress… The “Three Fifths Compramise” was just that: a compramise proposed by an abolishinist Northerner to keep the Union.

    I’d like to hear what’s wrong with this argument as it still seems racist… I welcome all comers.

    Cheers

  8. Posted January 26, 2012 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    Teaching about slavery is dangerous because this country was founded with perfect morality; we had it then, we had it now. If you start talking about slavery and schoolchildren start to think that we initially denied people equal rights that we later realized should have them, then you’re going to make it seem like it’s possible — or worse yet, a good idea — for us to notice inequality and then correct it. Then before you know it, gays will be getting married, women will be voting, etc.

    • Posted February 1, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

      Sadly, I think this is more to the point… I feel like the thought process behind excluding it is exactly to hide that things can change or that the disfranchised can hope for more.

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