THE BLOG
09/30/2014 10:10 am ET Updated Nov 30, 2014

Sanitizing History in the Name of Patriotism

Conservative politicians across the country have spent much of the past few years attempting to remake public education in their image.

It can be seen in policies that turn teachers into free market independent contractors competing with their colleagues and counterparts at other schools, because conservatives believe competition is better than collaboration in every situation.

It can be seen in the multitude of efforts to integrate creationism in science classes, even though this theological doctrine has zero scientific content. But most recently it can be seen in the work of Jefferson Country Colorado school board member Julie Williams.

Williams has offered a proposal that aims to sanitize the districts U.S. History materials to "promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage."

This idea of presenting the U.S. as infallible has long been a conservative talking point but the reality is that patriotism is just conservative code for political correctness.

For instance, if you look at Williams Facebook page you will see that she is an aggressive opponent of Colorado using the Common Core Standards. Given that these standards have been approved of at the state level, her resistance and subsequent social media activism could certainly been seen as a general "disregard for the law." Williams' Facebook posts also reveal that she believes vaccines are responsible for some cases of autism, despite the CDC reports indicating that multiple studies find no such link. Is sharing this misinformation not a form of "social strife"?

American history is also full of events that are held up as glorious victories for the country, even though they would clearly be classified as "civil disorder." The Boston Tea party, the Revolutionary War, Women's Suffrage, and the Civil Rights movement are all events that are revered even though they also represent a citizenry struggling against government.

What Williams is really advocating for here is the power to manipulate public education to fit her naïve, idealized vision of America. There is no question that Americans have accomplished many great things and those achievements should certainly be part of every students education. However, as the iconic saying goes: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Slavery is a shameful part of American history but glossing over slavery means ignoring the core cause of the Civil War. It means skipping over the Civil Rights Movement.

Removing Japanese Americans from the homes and holding them in internment camps during World War II and the actions of Joe McCarthy during the Second Red Scare were both disgraceful actions by our government. But understanding how fear can lead to terrible decisions is clearly a topic worth discussing as we face new enemies like the Islamic State and the Ebola virus.

The Great Depression is obviously a time in our history that many would prefer to forget, but the massive wealth gap and a severe lack of government regulations that precipitated it are lessons that, if learned, may have prevented the Great Recession of 2008.

Countless American success stories prove that the knowledge gained from failing is often paramount in achieving success. Instead of seeing every poor decision in history as a black eye, we should view them as an opportunity to learn and grow. If education is supposed to prepare children for the real world, seeing history through rose colored glasses does students a great disservice.

In the end, the question that Williams and her supporters need to ask themselves is: would they still advocate for a special committee to review and censor U.S. history materials if that committee was appointed by liberals? If the answer to that question is no, that tells you all you need to know about the goals of this proposal.

Previously published in the Detroit News.