Haskins wants the reader to associate limiting the federal government with the Confederacy while the Union represented the idea of a powerful federal government. The implication is that believing in a federal government limited by the Constitution means supporting the Confederacy and slavery. What is especially startling is that the supposed “Southern ideology” is a paraphrase of the 10th amendment of the US Constitution, which reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”26 The earlier objectivity on this topic provided by The Words We Live By has been lost.
“… believing in a federal government limited by the Constitution means supporting the Confederacy and slavery.”
Along the same road of painting a portrait of the evil white man through slavery now come three texts that add the same perception with regards to Amerindians. The only description of a battle found anywhere in the Common Core reading list is found here: an account of the Battle of Little Bighorn27, where General Custer was defeated by Sitting Bull. There’s also Charles Mann’s Before Columbus: The Americans of 149128. The most notable is Dee Brown’s Indian History of the American West, which, as the name suggests, describes American westward expansion from the natives’ perspective. To someone who has studied American expansion from a perspective of it being the grand fulfillment of Manifest Destiny, or as the growth of prosperity in a young nation, such a book could provide an interesting new perspective, and show an angle previously hidden.
However, when that is not the case, and given the previous readings of the Common Core it certainly isn’t the case here, Dee Brown’s book will simply add to the existing view of American history as a tale of the evils of the white man. For example, he writes, “The white men of the United States—who talked so much of peace but rarely seemed to practice it—were marching to war with the white men who had conquered the Indians of Mexico.”29 Talking about peace but not practicing it is the description of “the white men of the United States.” This is a clear articulation of the idea that Common Core has been building from the beginning that the white man is inherently evil, and throughout history he has done nothing but steal ideas from smarter peoples while conquering and oppressing everyone in his way. This is the focus of history under the Common Core, and the main lesson it seeks to teach.
In the last two years before graduation, students read Declaration of Sentiments30, a key document in the women’s rights movement, and also three documents reminding the student of slavery and segregation, namely Richard Wright’s Black Boy31, the account of an African-American Communist32 growing up in early 20th century America, Horace Porter’s “Lee Surrenders to Grant, April 9th, 1865,”33 and “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” by Frederick Douglass34. With regards to the last one, we must ask, what to the Common Core Student is the Fourth of July? With years of learning little but the shameful aspects of American history, of learning to look upon our history as a story of oppression and upon our nation as one whose success was built on luck and theft, what would it mean to have a holiday for American independence?
The lessons of division by classifications and racial history as opposed to valuing individuals are continued in the standards themselves. The Common Core pretends to teach open-mindedness, but creates only an illusion of such. In the Wyoming standards, the goal for discussions in middle school is to create a consensus.35 Everyone is to present their arguments and come to accept the best conclusion. Students learn that being objective means agreeing upon best-argued position. In the Common Core, however, the goal is for a diversity of opinions to be heard. It does not matter if everyone walks away frustrated with no agreement reached, but only that all sides were heard. By focusing on letting all sides be heard instead of on coming together to find common ground, the Common Core seeks to divide, not unify.
“… what to the Common Core Student is the Fourth of July?”