John Doyle Anthropology – Loewen – Worksheet 1. Loewen says there are several problems with Christopher Columbus being taught in schools. Among those problems are the fact that America had many people who came here way before him. He only happened to find it at a time that Europeans were actually interested in moving. As far back as 10,000 BC people were coming across from Siberia, they however were not about to go back and tell everyone because they were more nomadic. My father always taught me that it was St. Brendan from Ireland. Another problem is that even rap songs say America was discovered long before Columbus so it is hard for a teacher to agree to that since it isn’t a reliable source of information. Children are taught that he was definitely from Italy but there is information that he wasn’t. There is not a consistency with the history of his life in textbooks, one says he was rich while another states he was poor. The legend that Europeans believed the Earth to be flat is simply not true. When a ship goes over the horizon you see it move over a round surface, not fall off the edge. Textbooks also make the story of the trip to America sound like it was an extremely hard journey, while it was actually quite easy. The weather was nice, not stormy. Christopher Columbus introduced two phenomena that revolutionized race relations and transformed the modern world: the taking of land, wealth, and labor from indigenous peoples, leading to their near extermination and the transatlantic slave trade, which created a racial underclass. Pg. 60 This is what Columbus did and I really do not believe he has any business being in an American History textbook. 2. Traditional American history is very distorted in textbooks. The reason for this is to make the Americans look good and to make children proud to be an American. The textbooks teach that America was sparsely populated when Columbus and settlers first came here, while in fact it had several huge societies. The Europeans brought what was most likely small pox to the Americas and quickly killed off most of the population. Charles Darwin writing in 1839, put it almost poetically: “Wherever the Europeans had trod, death seems to pursue the aboriginal” Pg. 83 This makes the Europeans sound like a virus and how can a teacher tell young school children that their ancestors were a simply a virus that brought death wherever they went. There is also the issue with the Pilgrims. The books say that they wanted to go to Virginia but they somehow ended up in Massachusetts. There is more evidence that they purposely went to Massachusetts but this is not mentioned. There just is not consistency with actual history and what is in the textbooks. Then there is the first thanksgiving where textbooks say it was the Indians who were treated to a feast like they had never seen, however, it was the Europeans who had never seen that kind of feast since most of the foods were native to the Americas. 3. “To make a better myth,” means to change the truth of a story to make it a better story. A story that is not necessary easier to believe but one that is better around the campfire. This was done in modern textbooks about the story of when Columbus came to America. One example is when the textbooks say everyone from that time thought the world was flat when they really knew it was round. Another example is
the death of Columbus, the textbook say he wasn’t appreciated when why would they send him with more boats if he weren’t. One final example is the weather; the textbooks say it was stormy but Columbus’s personal log says the weather was fine. By changing these truths it makes a better story. Many of the textbooks tell of Columbus’s three later voyages to the Americas, but they do not find space to tell us how Columbus treated the lands and the people he “discovered”. Pg. 60 They omit and change information to “make a better myth”. 4. Evolutionary stereotype means that more is taught of developed societies evolving to bigger societies that poorer hunter-gathers who developed into smaller societies. The textbook American History generalizes “Those who planted seeds and cultivated the land instead of merely hunting and gathering food were more secure and comfortable”. The book then says, “their agricultural people were mostly peaceful, though they could fight fiercely to protect their fields. The hunters and wanderers, on the other hand were quite warlike because their need to move about brought them frequently into conflict with other groups.” Pg. 101 5. The origin of the “Ideals of Democracy” can be described as the influence of the Indians, particularly the Iroquois. The Iroquois ideas of liberty, freedom and equality found their way over to Europe to influence social philosophers such as Thomas Moore, Locke, Montaigne, Montesquieu and Rousseau. These European thinkers then influenced American thinkers such as Franklin, Jefferson, and Madison. Benjamin Franklin wanted to form the Albany Plan of Union after seeing how the Iroquois ran their tribes. The colonies rejected the plan but it was most likely a forerunner to the Constitution. In 1775 Congress formulated a speech to the Iroquois, signed by John Hancock, that quotes Iroquois advice from 1744. “The Six Nations are a wise people”, congress wrote, “let us harken to their council and teach our children to follow it.” Pg. 111 6. Statements made about wars and battles between the U.S. Government and Native Americans are that they were a huge deal but most if not all are left out of America History textbooks. Indian warfare absorbed 80 percent of the entire federal budget during George Washington’s administration and dogged his successors for a century as a major issue and expense. Pg. 116 Yet, most of our textbooks barely mention the topic. The books will mention the US had the Civil War but omit most of the Indian wars. Some of the books even mention Indian Massacres such as wombed knee, only for the sake of showing some Indian deaths. For the most part they just tell how many Americans died and not even a mention of how many Indians. The Pequot War was a turning point in history but there is barely a mention of it in these textbooks. 7. Statements about acculturation and the European lust for land are that they took it from anyone. Whatever they saw they claimed in the name of God and the King. The only problem was that it was not theirs to take, they would frequently pay the wrong tribe, often they didn’t really care. There merely sought justification for theft. In 1803 the Louisiana Purchase took place by Jefferson buying if from France. It was, however, the Indians and France merely sold its claim to the territory. Pg. 122
There were more than 50 Indian wars from 1816 to 1890 that go largely unmentioned, and France being treated as the seller amounts to Eurocentricism. Even the route of Louis and Clarke leaves out the masses of Indians along the way. 8. Slavery and the dehumanization of specific ethnic groups i.e. slavery) are described by Loewen as complex. Racism in the western world stems primarily from two related historical processes: taking land from and destroying indigenous peoples and enslaving Africans to work that land. In order to teach this relationship textbooks would have to show the dynamic interplay between slavery as a social economic system and racism as an idea system, the social structure and the superstructure. Pg. 143 Slavery was around for a long time before but it was in the Americas where it became one race enslaving another. 9. Two related historical processes that have occurred are the taking of land from the native people and the enslavement of another race to work that land. Pg. 143 These two are major historical events and they are the basic cause of racism. 10. The cause of racism is slavery. White southerners wanted to keep their identity. The Africans were of a different skin color so assimilation was hard. Textbooks do not get into this subject. They just mention there were slaves and two colors who just didn’t intermix but don’t explain why. There is no connection to history and racism in these books. In omitting racism or treating it so poorly history textbooks shirk a critical responsibility. Pg. 145 In order to teach to children what racism really is and how to overcome it there has to be some background on the subject. There isn’t. 11. The significance of the Dread Scott case was that it made the US a slave state to the Africans. It stated “A Negro had no rights a white man was bound to respect”. Pg. 150 The slaves could no longer find a safe haven in the North and were forced to flee to Canada or Mexico if they wanted freedom. The Africans were forced to become like animals or children always having to be careful to mind how they acted towards whites they came across. 12. The reasons for the Seminole wars were that in 1816 Andrew Jackson attacked a Seminole fort because it harbored runaway slaves. The word Seminole is itself a corruption of the Spanish cimarron, corrupted to maroons on Jamaica, a word that came to mean “runaway slaves” Pg. 151 The Seminoles refused to surrender the runaway slaves. The whites attacked merely to eliminate a safe haven for runaways. Only half the textbooks mention the wars at all and only a few say Africans fought with the Seminoles. None mention the war was fought for the reason of slaves having a place to runaway to. 13. The Reconstruction Era was all about the re-organization of society to get whites working since blacks were no longer slaves. The textbooks twist this however and make it sound like it was the Africans who had to adapt to a working life. “Slavery was over,” says the American Way. “But the south was ruined and the Blacks had to be brought into a working society.” Blacks were already working of course. One
wonders what the author thinks they had been doing in slavery! Pg. 157 A lot of students believed Reconstruction was because Africans took over the south when slavery was done and messed up so control went back to the whites with lots of corruption. In reality the government was mostly all whites but with less corruption that in the decades following reconstruction. The real problem was white violence, not black ignorance. 14. The reason we don’t hear about John Brown’s ideas in our high school and college textbooks is that they were too radical and hard to fit into the flow of teaching history, he was after all a radical idealist or equalitarian. The American Tradition describes Brown’s actions at Pottawatomie: “In retaliation, a militant abolitionist named John Brown led a midnight attack on the pro-slavery settlement of Pottawatomie. Five people were killed by Brown and his followers.” Pg. 173 Brown was a white abolitionist who was an extreme radical. He was finally caught and after trial convicted of treason against Virginia, murder, and criminal conspiracy so sentenced to hang. Many textbooks make him out to be mentally ill or insane. The fact that he was a hero of the time to nonslaveholding whites and blacks is not mentioned anywhere. They only refer to him as a fanatic and don’t mention his ideas or actions at all. 15. In Chapter 11 Loewen talks about the study of History. He says that it is far from being consistent. History textbooks change over time but the history has always been the same. There are selected issues and ways to teach them that make the American children look good. I believe he is correct in the fact that an upper-class conspiracy is to blame. However, Loewen says if this were the fact then why is his book even published. I believe it to be a way to actually discredit his facts by only being one book after a mass of textbooks that exist to the contrary. The control of academic elements in school is to keep facts from us that force Americans to be ignorant and stupid. Pg. 275 Otherwise widely known as the “Dumbing of America”. A scholar Jonathan Kozol writes, “School is in a business to produce reliable people”. Paulo Friere of Brazil puts it this way: “It would be extremely naïve to express the dominant classes to develop a type of education that would enable subordinate classes to perceive social injustices critically”. Pg. 275 The dominant class simply wants workers who won’t question why they are here and what they should think. Loewen goes on to say that he doesn’t believe this is working the way they want. After all most students detest history class and that the textbooks do little to actually make “good citizens”.