Thoughts by Richard Bleil
A friend of mine recently posted a meme that was presumably true, but it was one of those things that you cannot verify either way. But whether or not it was true, it raises interesting points that need to be considered in this evolving world of educational awareness. The meme, which was actually the dialogue of a conversation that presumably actually occurred, came from a state with a law requiring “opposing viewpoints”. The woman who wrote it claimed to have been a university professor invited into the conversation between a principal and a very upset mother.
The child was a young white girl who was in an advanced reading class. The class had a series of books that the children could choose to read, and she voluntarily selected one that was an account from a minority author describing the abuse she took from other school children as she was growing up. The book upset the girl reading it, and she apparently asked her mother, tears in her eyes, if all white people are racist. Rather than being proud that her daughter is beginning to recognize race issues, and that she is beginning to look inward and question her own stand, or sitting her down to discuss the issue with her, the mother opted to call the principal to ask where the legally required opposing viewpoint was to be found.
Many people are focusing on how there can be opposing viewpoints to facts. Although this meme was from a week or two ago, just today (as of the writing of this post) the concept of facts again was raised, this time in reference to the holocaust, asking how there can be opposing viewpoints to what historically, and demonstrably, occurred. This is a fair and legitimate response. There are no alternative facts to chemistry, for example, so how can there be a law requiring such?
And yet there are always opposing opinion to facts. We tend to laugh them off, but there are people who are legitimately denying that the holocaust ever actually occurred. There are, today, people who believe in alchemy, including belief in many of its tenants that modern science has swept away. There are even people who legitimately believe that the earth must be flat. Some years ago, a channel with the audacity to call itself “news” coined the phrase “alternative facts”, a term spread far and wide by one political party although there can be no “alternative facts”. Earth is flat, or it is not. Since we know that the earth is not flat, calling it so is not an “alternative fact” since it is not a fact at all.
These laws that books such as the one described, especially wherein the people mentioned in the book have come forward to admit that they did what the book said, should have “opposing viewpoints” had led the principal to consider simply removing all such books from the school. He’s not alone. I’ve read of other schools talking about removing books, or entire school libraries, in an effort to avoid legal persecution. To do so is a form of censorship, and smacks of book burning.
But the part that seems to be missing from this discussion is that books such as these are the opposing viewpoint. As a society, we’ve been raised in an educational system that whitewashes all of the atrocities of our nation’s history. I remember slavery being brought up in our history class when I was in middle school. It was little more than, “slavery existed” and let’s move on. I even remember one of my teachers explaining that, although there were some slave owners that were bad, most actually treated their slaves well because they were an expensive investment, like a car, and wouldn’t abuse them.
At the time, I was too young to be angered that my teacher had equated human beings to an object like a car, but I bought the story. I believed, for many years, that most slave owners were kind, gentle people who took care of their slaves, bringing them meals and lemonade as they worked on hot days. The reality, though, is that our nation is guilty of horrendous atrocities, against slaves, against the Native people, against other nations, but we never are taught that side. It was always “aren’t you proud to be in a nation of good guys?” But, if we gloss over these ugly truths, how are we ever to address them, move past them and ensure they never occur again?
Do you want the opposing view? Fine. Look at the textbooks that have been in use for decades. Try to find more than a paragraph on atrocities against humans in our own nation. Try to find anything about how the nation was built on the backs of slaves. Try to find anything about the US army and their drive to commit genocide against the Native people. Try to find any details in the horrors of the holocaust beyond numbers and statistics. In my opinion, removing these books from the schools is truly the violation of any law requiring an opposing viewpoint.