At a press conference earlier this week, state Rep. La Shawn Ford issued a call to abolish teaching history in Illinois schools, citing concerns that history teaching in its present form foments white supremacy and racism.
“When it comes to teaching history, we need to end the miseducation of Illinoisans,” said Ford, a former history teacher at Chicago Public Schools. “It costs so much to print books, and it costs so much of taxpayers to continue to pay for their … children to go to school to be miseducated.”
Ford believes that current materials and methods center the achievements of white men at the expense of other groups. “It … is not a real capture of the contributions of women, Black people, the Jewish community … the LGBTQ community. We have to have an integrated history.”
Mike Gonzalez, senior fellow at the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation and author of the new book “The Plot to Change America: How Identity Politics Divides America,” says there are some points upon which he agrees with Ford – for instance, he would like to see more African American history taught in schools.
“I would like to see Frederick Douglass, who I think is a hero, taught more,” Gonzalez said. “The way he praised the founding documents, the declaration and the Constitution, because … as he said its principles and purposes were entirely hostile to the existence of slavery and how he praised the founding generation as being courageous men and good men.”
Where they may differ, Gonzalez says, is on whose accounting of history should be part of the curriculum. “I do think that, for example, Howard Zinn should not be taught in history. His ‘People’s History of the United States’ is filled with inaccuracies about the founding and about who we are as a country,” Gonzalez said.
Ford says he’s not calling for an end to teaching students about the country’s Founding Fathers – in fact, he’d like to see more taught about them. “We want the good, the bad, and the ugly to be taught. We need to hear everything about [the Founding Fathers] – not just what’s good about them, not make them into heroes. The Founding Fathers were human beings and they were fallible as well. So we need to make sure we tell the truth about who they were.”
But Gonzalez says he believes the details of the Founding Fathers’ lives matter less than their ideas, for which he said: “They should be praised. They put together a nation that is unique and exceptional in the sense that it is the only nation in the world that derives its legitimacy from natural right and natural law. No other country does that.
“They put together a nation that has not always lived up to its ideals but has had an historic degree of liberty and prosperity,” he said. “The ideas are really what matters.”