E Pluribus, uh... Pluribus?

Read a really interesting article (10 pages!) in the NY Times today about the Texas state curriculum and what kinds of history should appear in public school curricula.

The conversations this board had recently remind me of what I imagine took place at the Council of Nicaea: I'm always telling my students that "America" is redefined every generation, and I ask them at the end of each semester in my literature classes to recommend three "cuts" and three "keepers" from our reading list. It's all very high-stakes, though it may not seem so. Thirty-five years ago you could scarcely have found an anthology of American literature that includes what all of them now include: excerpts and selections from the Iroquois and Pima creation stories, Mary Rowlandson's narrative, Sarah Kemble Knight's narrative, Olaudah Equiano's narrative, Harriet Jacobs' narrative.

In a certain sense, I do think it's absurd to try to teach students about America's early days without referring to the Christian tradition. On the other hand, I'd be skeptical about the ability of typical high school teachers to do that with the kind of nuance it requires (indeed, I have little faith that most college professors tread carefully enough with regard to that topic).

The article quotes a Christian activist named Cynthia Dunbar: "The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next." I couldn't have said it better myself.

Anyway, lots of interesting stuff in the article.


Anonymous said...

This was always my interest too, asking "what is america?"in a post colonial sense. When do you start American Literatures? early colonials had no preconception of a colony apart from Britain (maybe the puritans, hm maybe....john winthrop?) Check out a book called "Making Nature Sacred: Literature, Religion, and Environment in America from the Puritans to the Present" by John Gatta, it's an interesting persepctive. Missing that cool Iroquois stuff but definitely describes the "white christian perspective" coming into contact with "Wilderness."

-- Lindsay

Casey said...

I usually teach as much of the cool Iroquois stuff as possible!