Along the Way: Dangerous Education

A lot of politics in general and some of the president’s words and deeds in particular are beyond my expertise, even though sometimes I can’t keep myself from commenting about them. But when Donald Trump wanders into certain territory, he is on my turf. Education is one of them. Two of his recent comments are ludicrous and dangerous.

First, his ludicrous allegation that progressive Americans are teaching their children to hate America. That’s a lie. The truth is, some Americans are teaching their children to be honest about America. We do this because we have become aware of (through research, not hearsay) how skewed America’s history has been—advanced by a false narrative that is Aryan in concept.

The move to change this is not because we hate America, but because we love it, and we believe honesty is the only way to love something. Paul wrote, “Love rejoices in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6). We know truth best, and we establish mature perspectives about it when we see it complete. In fact, we learn as much about how to make things better by seeing the bad as we do by viewing the good. Prejudice is the result of partiality. Wisdom is the product of wholeness.

There is only one kind of truth when it comes to history: a mixed narrative in which we have gotten some things right and other things wrong. [1]  To acknowledge this about America is not hatred, it’s honesty. It is only those who “prefer darkness to light because their deeds are evil” (John 3:19) who want to truncate truth.  But to do so is to foist falsehood and design deception. A “sanitized” history (i.e. viewed through the lens of white privilege) is not history, it is propaganda. And because most of us were given a sanitized picture, it takes courage to confess it and work to do better. This leads to the second thing Trump has said—the dangerous thing.

Second, his plan to create a task force that will determine ways and means to teach “proper” American history—that is, history which  perpetuates the sanitized version with increased verve. To his credit and to that of his minions who blindly do his bidding, it is true that education is arguably the most powerful force in shaping the national narrative and creating the supportive mindset to declare and defend it. But the fact is, what Trump is proposing is not education, it is indoctrination—and of the kind that will extend white supremacist ideology into another generation. This is dangerous.

Our resistance to his views comes from an “enough is enough” point in time, where a growing number of people believe we are in the mess we’re in to a large degree because we have been taught improper American history. We are those who believe we have been harmed by a caucasian/corporate concept of history, where eugenics and elitism prevail.

We are those who envision a future where education in American history (and the life which issues from it) becomes “a coat of many colors”—a tapestry in which many story threads weave our national narrative.  We envision a national narrative akin to Pentecost, a day when the truth was spoken through many people groups and languages. We envision education that forms human conscience in ways that beget respect, inclusion, and the common good.

Donald Trump’s lies about our history and his plan to perpetuate a skewed narrative are of the darkness, not the light. And as one national newspaper puts it, “Democracy dies in the darkness.” Donald Trump is advocating dangerous education, born of despotism, not democracy.

[1] I imagine you have noticed Donald Trump’s refusal to admit mistakes, and his incessant claims (about almost everything) that no one has ever done things as well as he has. This is sick, and so is his attempt to create a past history and a current narrative that defines itself as “great.”

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.