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Texas, Don’t Continue to Mess with History

Dear Sedona Times Editor:  Texas’ messing with history is nothing new. The Texas State Board of Education has been trying to re-fight the Civil War and Reconstruction, Indian wars, and the Spanish-American War using textbooks for a long time.

I attended Texas public schools from the 50s through 60s. Though I got a good education in some areas, I have profound anger about some of the lies and omissions in the social studies curriculum. For just one of many examples, my junior high American history teacher said blacks were happier under slavery and most wanted to go back to those days. I found nothing in my textbooks to dispute his assertion, though I looked for contrary evidence, not seeing how such a thing could be true. I saw charts that suggested other races were behind “us” on an evolutionary chart. (I suppose back then evolution was a handy theory in the hands of ideologues.) As a senior in high school, by chance I learned that the segregated black schools in my small town were given these already substandard textbooks once we superior white students had completely worn them out. At the beginning of their school year, the black students received coverless texts, with many years of white students’ names filled in the blanks to complete the insult. Was this the Texas State Board of Education’s policy? If so, they were haters then as they apparently are now.

In college libraries, when I began to do my own research, I was stunned to learn of Jim Crow, wide-spread lynching, Native American history past the lodges and tee-pees, American imperialism, to name a few – all of which had conveniently been left out of my textbooks.

In lying about and redacting history, Texas, contrary to what they intend, are instead producing some angry, radicalized citizens, disillusioned with a country that lied to them and determined to fight the forces behind such lies. That is, if the students have time and money to go to college or otherwise engage in the kind of research I did. If not, they will be vulnerable to political hacks who use their poor education and anger as a tool to radicalize them for their own purposes. I believe that had I been offered an honest look at history and my duty as a citizen to work to make my country live up to its creed, I would not now associate the Texas schools with the heinous crimes perpetrated by our society.

What textbook editors are doing in adhering to Texas’ guidelines in textbook publication is undermining the foundation of our country at a time when we are trying to avoid radicalizing anyone. To this day, when I come across evidence that tarnishes the rose-colored history I was taught as a child, such as J. Edgar Hoover’s hiring the first black agents to infiltrate and spy on American citizens in ghettoes advocating for change, I revisit my days in neat little rows in those Texas classrooms with anger at having had my education slanted by ignorant people. Fortunately, one or two good teachers tried to present a more balanced view. Looking back, I can see those educators were brave heroes working in what was probably a hostile environment.

Now the eyes of the country and the world are on the Texas State School Board. All this light shining on them is a good thing. They’ve been operating in the dark and on the dark side for far too long. What they owe the country is an apology for their hate-filled past, not more seriously-flawed textbooks.

Yuma Michaels

Sedona, Arizona  86351

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