Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Blinded by the White?

Teaching my kids history seems like a land mine to me.  History can be taught from so many angles and is, in many ways, very subjective.  As a white person, trained mostly in European history, I lack the solid background I'd like to have to teach my children about the world in a way that reflects both their races/cultural backgrounds.

After several years of agonizing over various curriculums and approaches I really didn't like, I finally landed on the History at Our House program, which I love. It is a Western Civ history course, which I know many people object to, in general. It is taught by a white man (which some people probably object to in general). But I honestly think understanding the history that has created Western Civilization is vital to understanding the world in which we live.  It also provides a relative reference for understanding the history of other cultures. I've listened to all the lectures over the past few years, and the teacher's treatment of sensitive topics has seemed somewhere between delightful and completely reasonable to me.

Imagine my distress in learning recently that one of the other families I knew was using the program quit.  Not just any family, but a family of color whose mother I hold in very high esteem. They were all so offended by the course's treatment of Columbus that they left the class. This was one of the subjects I felt nervous about and after listening the the lectures thought the teacher handled the very well.

I'm pulling out my Howard Zinn books to see what about the subject matter I'm so completely missing.  I'm certainly willing to teach my kids alternative views of this, and any period, of history.  What really concerns me, though, is my own level of awareness.  How did I completely miss out on what was objectionable?

Am I completely blinded by my White education, privilege and self as to not be able to even see the experience of others?

1 comment:

jesterqueen said...

I guess my question would be "how DID he handle Colombus"? One of my favorite songs is "Colombus lied"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2ikjb_d2Cg, and very few histories take that perspective into account or use it to balance the attitude that Columbus "found" a "new world".