How can we teach history and social studies without including controversy?
And even if you could, what would be the point?
The story of humankind is all about moving through the changes that challenge our very survival, cultures, and intellectual and economic growth.
So, it isn’t just one story, but the confluence of many, and the truths of one version sometimes clash with another.
The arguments are ultimately about who gets to tell the story. Who are the good guys, and who are the bad guys. Fact is, there are good guys and bad in every culture and across races and religious doctrines.
Those in charge get to tell the story their way, and there’s a tendency to conveniently change the facts about the beginning, middle and end to retain power, wealth, or status. Facts seem to be losing ground to passionate opinion. Every group, each individual, demands the right to their own truth.
All this turmoil about keeping politics out of the curriculum in public schools is just another case of one group or another trying to burn the books that they don’t want others to read.
It’s just old-fashioned censorship. Usually employed in the name of saving democracy, it is the opposite. Defended as a tool for preserving order and morality for freedom to flourish, it is nothing more than an attempt at thought control.
Censorship goes back to the Greeks and Romans when they decided someone had to make some rules to protect the morality and values of the community at large. So, going back at least 500 years B.C., people have been arguing over what you have a right to read, see, hear or know.
You can make the argument that not all stories should be told in public, which is a fact that keeps the idea of censorship on life support. We all purport to believe in freedom of speech, the right to know what public officials are doing, and why.
We just cannot agree on the dividing line between good taste, public manners, and correctness, which is often different from “political correctness,” a concept that is the weapon of choice for those to the Left of center to shut down freedom of expression by those whose words are deemed insensitive, hurtful or malicious, or just archaic and uninformed.
In return, the Right of center applies strict litmus tests of conservatism and has mastered the ability to display a religious piety while dismissing the humanity of people they sneeringly refer to as “libs” or “Dems.”
It is ironic that the rise of evangelic Christianity is fueled less by forgiving others than by condemnation of the unsaved. Conversely, liberals’ insistence on acceptance of diversity and alternative lifestyles often excludes those with strong religious convictions and love of traditions.
Sometimes it seems there’s a competition between factions to disenfranchise both the humanness and the value system of the other.
Opposing views are forged into sharp rhetoric wielded by both sides as weapons in ideological warfare, or held up as shields, and anyone who suggests the weapons and shields should be replaced by baskets and shared more like bread and cheese is vilified by all sides.
If I have to choose allegiance, it will be to the freedom not just to choose, but to change my mind as new facts and challenges are considered. To hear. To read. To seek.
It might be criticized as political and spiritual ambivalence, or lacking a moral rudder, but no sailor discovered what was over the horizon by sitting at anchor in a safe harbor.
America is out of balance now, and must regain the ability to listen with wisdom, and speak with discretion. Misinformation and deliberate disinformation are not true freedom of speech; they’re poisonous to liberty. No nation — no institution — ever thrived by rejecting progress and adaptation. No free society can exist without give and take.
No species survives if it eats its young.
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Dean Minnich writes from Westminster.