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Arkansas Larnin’

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The good people of Arkansas are making sure their kids get taught Real American history, by which they mean white supremacist narratives.

Two bills introduced during the 2021 Arkansas legislative session seek to restrict what can be taught in the state’s schools. 

HB 1231, also known as the “Saving American History Act of 2021”, seeks to prohibit the use of public school funds to teach the 1619 Project.  The journalism project was developed by the New York Times and focuses on the consequences of slavery for Black Americans during the colonial period. 

HB 1218 would prohibit public school districts, open-enrollment public charter schools and state-supported two and four-year colleges from a course, class, event or activity that:Promotes the overthrow of the US government

Promotes division between, resentment of, or social justice for a: 

Race

Gender

Political affiliation

Social class

Particular class of people

Is designed primarily for students of a particular ethnic group

Advocates the solidarity of, or the isolation of a group of students instead of the treatment of students as individuals based on particular characteristics, including without limitation: 

Ethnicity

Race

Religion

Gender

Social class

Violates state and federal civil rights laws

Negatively targets specific nationalities or countries. 

This is a great example of how words that are intended to promote diversity can be used to reinforce racism, misogyny, etc. You think the Arkansas legislators are going to treat the teaching of Muslims and Christians the same? Of course not. This is designed to make sure that racial history is taught: history that reinforces white American narratives of conquest and progress. This is designed to center gender: that men are the leaders of the nation. This is designed to ensure religion is taught: Christianity first, foremost, and probably all. This is designed to discuss class relations: promote a capitalist agenda. People wondered what the point of the idiotic 1776 Project was, which was erased by the Biden administration 24 hours after it was published. This is the point–to provide an alternative template to history that states such as Arkansas can follow.

The teaching of history is always a battle. If it’s not a battle, it means you are accepting the status quo and thus participating in the battle too. The past is very alive and it is all about the present. I personally see no point in studying the past except as a way to understand the present, though certainly many historians would disagree. What’s more, the hard right legislators of Arkansas see it the same way. They just share no values with most professional historians.

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