In recently crediting the slave owners who wrote the Declaration of Indepenence with inspiring the abolitionist movement, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was only the latest in a long line of politicians determined to purify the innocence of the American experience despite its original and enduring racist sins.
It is only one of a series of inconvenient truths concerning this nation’s imperialist legacy that have been bleached out of our historical memory to leave us, as Gore Vidal once described, the United States of Amnesia.
It is a rigid bias imposed by those who select the text books and curriculum for the nation’s high schools where formative knowledge of our societal past is largely imposed. It is a bias resisted by a few heroic high school teachers such as Jim Mamer, who 30 years ago, early in his career, was honored as a national Social Science/History Teacher of the Year in 1992 by the National Council for Social Studies. Now retired after 35 years in the classroom and a decade teaching teachers at the University of California Irvine, Mamer talks to Scheer Intelligence host Robert Scheer about his concern over the disinformation of much of what passes for American education.
He begins with the nation’s violent origins and repeated throughout the accounts of the nation’s history recorded in more than 400 history textbooks that Mamer has reviewed, the majority of which contain glaring omissions or inaccuracies about the history of the formation of the U.S., its major wars and the social movements that shaped contemporary society.
“If you asked any students if they even know the name of a war that was declared by the United States against the Indians, you will find that they don't have any idea,” Mamer mentions. The history of Native Americans, as Mamer talks about, is one of the most mangled subjects within American textbooks.
“The Native people are basically almost not present in the textbooks,” Mamer says. “It's fascinating and that's obviously done on purpose, but they do the same thing with labor history. Very few students know much about the development of the union movement. They do the same thing with the history of various Asian groups in the United States.”
With the Ukraine war dominating the media space and the U.S. once again slickly involved, isolationism as it relates to early U.S. history is another area of disputation of the written record in some books. “Every textbook I've seen and every student I've talked to has said, well, this is an isolationist nation and that changed in World War I… you can't teach that the United States was isolationist because it never was isolationist. It had enough work to do in expanding from sea to shining sea,” Mamer mentions.