Lying to the Future

In class, we discussed the topic of slavery and how it is taught to young children. The discussion blew me away. I realized during this conversation that what I had learned growing up regarding slavery was glossed over. In the article read in class, which was included in the New York Times’ 1619 Project, I learned:

“There is no consensus on the curriculum around slavery, no uniform recommendation to explain an institution that was debated in the crafting of the Constitution and that has influenced nearly every aspect of American society since.”

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/1619-america-slavery.html

It was infuriating to me that I was not exposed to the truth about slavery when I was growing up. I understand that we as a society do not want to “scare” children by exposing them to concepts such as rape and chattel slavery, but how will we ensure change for the future if children are not exposed to the horrors of slavery?

In her article, Stewart explains how a textbook for children stated that “Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings, who was enslaved by him, is described as ‘intimacy’ and an ‘affair.’” Thomas Jefferson raped Sally Hemings. There was no “intimacy” involved. It makes me angry that children are not being exposed to what actually happened in situations like these. Along with all of slavery being dumbed down, the concept of rape is also being excluded. How are children supposed to grow up knowing that rape and slavery are bad, when we aren’t properly discussing/teaching them in schools? The situation is tricky. How are teachers supposed to explain rape or the torture and ownership of people to kids in elementary school? I’m frustrated with how these subjects are being taught, but then again I don’t know how we can successfully change the way we approach these topics without scaring and confusing children. Have there been any kinds of curriculum changes in schools that help address the facts of slavery without upsetting children?

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