Teach your children well

 According to today’s Guardian newspaper, they’re taking a History text-book off the syllabus because of the language it uses. No, Virginia, the writer of the text book doesn’t go into a rant of effing and blinding. The problem is, s/he has asked an inappropriate question. In an A Level textbook by Hodder, the question is put to students for discussion: “To what extent do you think that the treatment of Native Americans has been exaggerated?”

First off, a confession. When I was a high school teacher, I used try to stimulate discussion by writing on the blackboard something like “All poetry is a stupid waste of time”.  It often had the required effect – students would push in to tell me that there were all sorts of good reasons why teaching poetry made sense. Mission accomplished.

But that was poetry, this is people – or a people. And a people who were pushed off their land, even though that land covered vast expanses. Today the Native Americans are a broken people – poverty, alcoholism, unwanted pregnancies – you name it and they suffer from it. We’ve all been taught that Christopher Columbus first discovered America on such-and-such a date. The hell he did. It was there thousands of years before him, and inhabited by a people who knew how to live in harmony with their environment.

Once you get a grip on that, you see how the Native American people are being grossly insulted by the question. If you had a question which asked if the Irish weren’t exaggerating with their claims about An Gorta Mor/the Famine, or that the Jews were maybe exaggerating when they said millions of them had died in concentration camps under the Nazis, the person posing that question has a serious problem: themselves.

To ask the question in that way suggests there might be a valid opposing side to the argument. There isn’t, and even to imply there is, is a revolting insult to the Native Americans and a dangerous road down which students could be led.

Some topics don’t have two arguable sides – just the truth and lies.

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