Friday, September 11, 2009

The Real, The Imagined, The Censored

The fact that many yeshivas stringently censor the reading material allowed in their classes is well known. The yeshivas are worried that much of what is available in secular reading material is not supportive of frum ideals and ideology. In many cases whole genres of reading material are censored. I recall mentioning on this blog that a RW yeshiva I taught in ossured a math workbook in which a father was washing dishes--this was not the image the school wanted their students to have of what a father does.

But it's not just the yeshivas that are fooling around with what is read in the classroom. And some of what is going on in the outside world is a bit scary. The link that follows is to a 5-part video series of a Fox News report on textbooks in the classroom. I'm not 100% in agreement with everything in the report, but there is sufficient there to make me wonder about just what constitutes an education in at least some parts of the US today.

Why post this on the anniversary of 9/11? Revisionist history is nothing new. Even in the few years since the events of 9/11 there are already some people who have been changing around the facts of what happened to fit a different agenda. What will people learn about 9/11 fifty years from now? Will our textbooks then tell it like it was, or will they rearrange, change, and eliminate the "facts" to present things as they want them to be?


E. Fink said...

I remember noticing phenomena when I was in High School.

When I was in 3rd - 4th grade we learned (from our textbook) that Thanksgiving was originally celebrated by the Pilgrims as a way of giving thanks to God for their bounty.

By the time I was in High School the textbook taught us that Thanksgiving was originally celebrated as a way of giving thanks to the Native Americans for helping the Pilgrims with their harvest.

Revisionist history.

Offwinger said...

That revision doesn't even make any sense. The Native Americans were also very religious and would have been thanking God (or various Gods - depending on the specifics) too.

I guess that was a "politically correct" revision that if you're going to ignore the cultural details of one group of people (i.e., Pilgrims = religious Christians with funny hats and shoes), then you ought to ignore the cultural details of other groups of people (i.e., Native tribes = religious non-Christians with different funny hats and shoes).

Now I'm curious what reason that high school textbook gave for the Pilgrims coming to America in the first place...

ProfK said...

I do so hate that title "Native Americans." For one thing, if you are born here then you are, by definition, a "native" American. The term that used to be preferred, and still is in use by many, is "indigenous people(s)." Of course, if you look at one of the common definitions for indigenous you will find "Originating and living or occurring naturally in an area or environment." That "occurring naturally" is where the trouble begins. Whole slews of those "Native Americans" arrived here from other geographic locations. They didn't originate here. And yes, if you read unsanitized historical accounts, you'll find many mentions of one "Native" group ousting another here before them to gain the territory. So it's okay if "they" do it but not if "we" do it?

E. Fink said...


It is not PC to involve God. So the book took Him out. It's even worse because many of the Native Americans (apologies to ProfK) tried to kill them!


So what should we call the people who were here before us?

Offwinger said...

The Canadian term is "First Nations." I like that a lot better. It accurately reflects the facts that:
(1) these people were not native, but they were the first to succeed in establishing self-governing groups in these territories; and
(2) there are many tribes that were each a distinct recognized nation.

As for the "they were trying to kill them," that's a complicated story, with a lot of mutual killing efforts (and some cooperative efforts, which makes sense given that, as noted above, these are multiple nations that had various alliances and treaties).

Dave said...

You are making an assumption that the original version you learned in grade school was correct.

There are only two primary sources for the first Thanksgiving. I'm including both here in modern English.

Edward Winslow:
"Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, among other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed upon our governor, and upon the captain, and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

William Bradford:
"They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty. For as some were thus employed in affairs abroad, others were exercised in fishing, about cod and bass and other fish, of which they took good store, of which every family had their portion. All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees). And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. Besides, they had about a peck of meal a week to a person, or now since harvest, Indian corn to that proportion. Which made many afterwards write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned but true reports."

G6 said...

I've nominated you for the Kreativ Blogger award.
I enjoy your style and your blog very much.