Writer believes history taught in school should not be “selective”

Published 2:00 pm Tuesday, June 8, 2021

To the Editor:
A Johnson City teacher recently won a state award for her teaching about the Holocaust. She was one of only three across the state to receive this award from the Tennessee Holocaust Commission. He goal with these lessons is to “create a moral compass” and that “an in-depth look at the Holocaust can teach students how to prevent it from ever happening again.”
This is in sharp contrast to the recently passed Tennessee law against teaching what is called “critical race theory” which examines our nation’s past regarding Native American genocide slavery and subsequent Jim Crow laws and the role of white supremacy in all of them. Rather, we should promote “American exceptionalism” instead and not teach things that “inherently divide or pit Americans against one another.”
In Germany, instead of forbidding teaching their past, all schools are required to teach about the Holocaust and many schools take trips to concentration camps such as Auschwitz, Birkenau, and other Holocaust Memorials. Rather than “whitewash” the past, Germany believes every citizen should learn about and from it. It is more important than ever, since many people continue to deny it happened in the first place.
In 1925, here in Tennessee, it was illegal to teach Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and a teacher was put on trial for doing just that. It clashed with the fundamentalist belief of citizens and the teacher was convicted and fined, though the verdict was eventually overturned.
We are not giving near enough credit to students when we forbid them to examine history in its entirety. They must learn to think critically from as many perspectives as possible and come to their own conclusions. Education and knowledge are the foundation and backbone of our democracy and bulwark against fascism and authoritarianism. We must have far more respect for them than recent trends and laws seem to dictate. We will continue to repeat the mistake of the past if we refuse to learn from them.

Susan J. Peters

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