The beauty of America is that love for this country isn't "promoted" by political parties desperately seeking new voters, or by a paranoid government intent on silencing dissent. When we look into the mirror as a nation, we're comfortable with our numerous blemishes; we don't need a historical version of plastic surgery. According to the Pew Research Center, "In 2011, the typical white household had a net worth of $91,405, compared with $6,446 for black households." Do slavery, Jim Crow, and the struggle for civil rights correlate to this egregious wealth disparity between whites and blacks in America, or is it the fault of poor decision making on the behalf of individuals?
The answer to this question should be derived through knowledge of U.S. history and it can't be explained by saying the Founders believed in liberty, or that Reagan defeated communism. Furthermore, the fact that Abraham Lincoln vehemently opposed the war with Mexico in 1846 and claimed it was "unnecessarily and unconstitutionally commenced" doesn't make me want to give back California or Arizona to Mexico. Likewise, the reality that Thomas Jefferson wrote "all men are created equal" and then owned more than 600 human beings as slaves in his lifetime doesn't make me want to join a communist guerrilla movement. Hypocrisy and irony are a part of human existence and the acknowledgment of both in U.S. history doesn't lessen one's affection for this country; it helps us understand who we are, why we're here, and where we want to be in the future.
Our government doesn't tell you to love or admire anything and if it ever did, most Americans would probably feel the opposite simply out of spite. I'll decide for myself whether I want to see America through the lenses of the Trail of Tears, the Japanese internment camps, slavery, or our victorious D-Day invasion, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, or Reagan's Berlin Wall speech, thank you very much. When Dr. Ben Carson says that students would likely be "ready to go sign up for ISIS" because teachers teach "a whole section on slavery and how evil we are, a whole section on Japanese internment camps and how we slaughtered millions of Japanese with our bombs," he fails to grasp the true meaning of patriotism is our country.
I don't need the Heritage Foundation rolling up to my front door on Thanksgiving and asking why my flag isn't up and I certainly don't need ideologues in the GOP asking my child to see only the good, and not the bad parts of our history. Young Americans can decide for themselves, based on every aspect of U.S. history, whether or not to protest, or vote Tea Party, or carry a gun or become a fur-hating vegan. They need all of our history in an honest manner, not just the "patriotic" version. America is today a place where same-sex marriages will soon be legal everywhere and also a country where "religious freedom" allows corporations to worship. We've reached this point because of our journey as nation and this journey should be told in its entirety.
When the Jefferson County School Board in Denver has to deal with the following proposal , Americas is in trouble:
Materials should 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.
I guess asking for Obama's birth certificate is now out of the question, since that isn't exactly respecting "authority." Furthermore, the next Cliven Bundy promoting "civil disorder" should be reprimanded, not glorified, by Sean Hannity. Materials endorsing "citizenship, patriotism" and other values can easily be turned against Republicans, especially in a democracy with multiple viewpoints on the meaning of the Constitution and freedom. However, there are bigger issues involved in this struggle for school curriculum.
In fascist societies, patriotism is the product of a rigorous attempt at not only sugarcoating a nation's history, but promoting only the favorable aspects of the past in hopes that controversial or tragic episodes are forgotten, or whitewashed as the propaganda of the enemy. According to Loyola University's, Education, Fascism, and the Catholic Church in Franco's Spain, textbooks are an important part of any despotic regime's control over its populace:
After the Spanish Civil War, school textbooks written by Nationalists contained one or more essential tenants of Falangist doctrine, including national unity, anti- individualism, and militarism.
Textbooks have traditionally been a major means to transmit tradition to the next generation; thus, they are a critically important media for propaganda...
Patriotism, militarism, Catholicism, and civic-mindedness became required subjects that the new government claimed was needed to defend Spain against its enemies, commonly defined as communists, Jews, and Masons...
Are American school boards at risk of becoming the equivalent of Franco's educational system? No, but they come dangerously close when the "proposed curriculum committee would require materials to promote patriotism, and the essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system... not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law."
Similarly, an article from Radio Free Asia titled Hong Kong Schools Reject Textbook highlights China's attempt to "educate" the more liberal citizens of Hong Kong:
The book, titled "The China Model," which portrays the Communist Party as "progressive, altruistic and united," has re-ignited debate over Beijing-backed propaganda-style education in Hong Kong...
Hong Kong's National Education Service Center will roll out The China Model textbook in primary schools across the territory from September.
The move sparked protests and public concern voiced by teachers at the weekend over possible political "brainwashing" in the formerly freewheeling territory...
In spite of a miniconstitution promising a far higher degree of civil liberty and freedom than is currently enjoyed by Chinese in the mainland, "patriotic education" will be mandatory in all Hong Kong primary and middle schools by 2015.
As stated, textbooks are used to "brainwash" when there's a deliberate attempt at furthering a political ideology. Conservatives have yet to prove that teaching the shameful episode of Japanese internment camps, or slavery, leads to a vote for the Democratic Party, therefore a focus away from these events seems to be an overt attempt at promoting an ideology, not educating our youth.
Finally, since conservatives misuse Hitler and Nazi analogies all the time, it's important to examine this era in human history in the correct context. Brainwashing our youth to promote "values" in accordance with a political ideology is exactly what took place in Nazi Germany. According to Harvard University's Analysis of Nazi Propaganda, research on propaganda in the Nazi years is analyzed to explain how German citizens were given a sanitized version of their history in order to further political ideology:
As we examine the chronology of events leading up to the Holocaust, it becomes vital to understand the role of propaganda in perpetuating a crime of this proportion...
In order to effectively fight propaganda, we need to educate people to identify and recognize propaganda when they see it...
Furthermore, the Nazis also helped strengthen the Ingroup Bias by targeting children, youth, and students in their propaganda...
Another common theme was that of patriotism and service, which also helped accentuate the Self-Serving Bias by using the Superiority Bias for Germany victory.
No, conservatives aren't Nazi propagandists, that's not my point. The issue at hand is actively promoting "patriotism" and "order" by targeting our youth. Not too long ago, as illustrated in Harvard research, this has led to catastrophe.
The beauty of America is that we're not afraid of our past. If conservatives have a complex about Wounded Knee, or think that teaching A Short Account of The Destruction of The Indies by Bartolome de Las Casas hurts the legacy of Columbus and represents a liberal bias, that's their problem. As the students in Colorado have already stated, "I want honesty in my classroom." These young Americans should be applauded for their love for this country's history and for protesting to learn all of their country's history, not just the parts sanctioned by Dr. Ben Carson. America should never be ashamed of itself, even if conservatives are embarrassed by certain elements of our past.