ethnic studies are american studies

The headline pretty much says it all. Good piece in the Huffington Post by Sally Kohn, on Why Ethnic Studies is Good For All Americans, Including White Folks. Unfortunately, it's a lesson that's becoming increasingly urgent and important, now more than ever. I like this part:
The fact is that in our increasingly racially and ethnically diverse nation, we are not preparing our children for the future they face if we do not teach them a history that includes the many communities that make up our nation.

But practical arguments aside, there is a profound, moral imperative to tell the full truth of America's history. I don't want my daughter growing up to think that slavery and colonialism -- which are indeed parts of her heritage -- are anything other than unjust and inhumane, lest her generation go on to repeat the mistakes of the past. Unfortunately, the way American history is taught often excuses such indiscretions for the sake of tidy nationalism, the naive notion that one cannot be a proud of America and critical of America at the same time. That's not patriotism. That's fascism -- enforced subtly through textbooks and lesson plans.

It is offensive to the independent and revolutionary history of America to not teach the inheritors of that history to think independently and critically for themselves. After all, in the earliest classrooms of our democracy out of which patriots like Sam Adams and Thomas Paine emerged, folks weren't just talking deferentially about the history of the British crown. The full history of the world, including various perspectives on the American colonies, was essential to the critical consciousness that birthed our nation. To whitewash that history now -- as though, for instance, our Founding Fathers were not oppressive in their own right with respect to slaves and women -- dishonors the legacy they sought to create of an independent, free-thinking nation. In fact, were they alive today, I think our Founding Fathers would be the first to see how the world has changed and acknowledge how biased and incomplete their perspectives were so many centuries ago. They would be proud of the America we have become and want our full history taught, warts and all -- for the sake of continuing our national legacy of freedom and justice, rather than stagnating.
History belongs to all of us, and the goal of ethnic studies is to make sure we are part of that story. Silly that someone should have to break it down like this, but hey, this is the United States of America, and it seems we need reminding. All the freaking time. Particularly in Arizona. And Texas.

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