Archived Opinion

History is complicated, let’s teach it that way

History is complicated, let’s teach it that way

There has been a lot of hype about Critical Race Theory (CRT) — most of it false. CRT actually involves very sophisticated scholarship about how race and racism have been connected to legal, social and economic systems and events. It is not something that could or would be taught even at the high school level. 

What is also not taught in school is our nation’s real history involving some of the racist behaviors of leaders and others throughout the 400 years since the first white settlers arrived. I was at least 40 years old before I ever learned about the Trail of Tears where Andrew Jackson forced Native Americans living east of the Mississippi River to walk to Oklahoma. The guy on your 20-dollar bill was responsible for thousands of people dying on that forced march. Genocide? Maybe. 

It was only about a year ago that I learned about the Tulsa race massacre where white folks in Tulsa literally obliterated, with fire and bombs, a prosperous African American community. Genocide? Definitely! 

Then, I learned Tulsa was not the only massacre. There was the Colfax, Louisiana, massacre, the Wilmington, North Carolina, massacre, the Atlanta massacre, the Elaine, Arkansas, massacre, the Rosewood, Florida, massacre, etc. etc. Then there are thousands of lynchings; some documented at the museum and memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, which I visited. 

Previously, I had learned that Christopher Columbus killed off native people and that the U.S. systematically kept driving Native Americans from their lands. However, I learned none of this in school. In school, I learned that Columbus was a great discoverer and that white folks righteously colonized the continent from coast to coast. In school, I also learned that the Civil War was about state’s rights and not slavery. In short, my whitewashed education left me ignorant of my country’s real history — both the good and especially the bad. 

CRT is not taught in schools, but neither is the real history of our nation. Our children and grandchildren should be taught the truth. They are not snowflakes so delicate that they need to be sheltered from reality. 

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Yes, there are many good and honorable events in our history. However, there are also the dark and dishonorable events as well. We can take pride in the former, but we need to be aware of the latter to understand current realities. 

Bigots and racists have attempted to marginalize those different from themselves throughout our history. In the mid 1800s, Irish immigrants on the east coast and Chinese on the west coast faced discrimination, followed by Italian immigrants some decades later. Most recently Latinos and Muslims have been the targets of bigots and racists. 

The white supremacist dog whistlers talk about CRT, parental rights, personal rights, etc., but they never talk about personal responsibility as it relates to the greater good. The diversity of our population is a strength — not a weakness. We should seek to learn about each other and from each other rather than villainize anyone different from ourselves. People keep saying, “We are better than this,” but I keep wondering if most of us really are. 

(Dr. Hoffmann is a retired psychologist with expertise in the assessment of behavioral health conditions and program evaluation. He lives in Waynesville. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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  • In my 24 years of teaching social studies, I discovered, both with sixth graders and university students, that history taught as controversial and complex results in students who are much more invested and engaged. Learning with primary sources and eyewitness testimonies that also tell the stories from viewpoints other than the victors' triumphant accounts means students' response is more than passive indifference, In addition, in supervising student teachers in countless classrooms, I have seen little to no evidence of CRT in WNC classrooms.

    posted by Russell

    Wednesday, 11/17/2021

  • The author is exceedingly naïve. It's sad that he was so poorly educated. I heard about all those "massacres" before I was in junior high.

    He exceeds himself when he claims CRT is not taught in schools. CRT is a common place, and has been since the extreme left took over the schools. He demonstrates that in his own screed.

    posted by Quartermaster

    Monday, 11/15/2021

  • Thank you.

    posted by Lorna Barnett

    Saturday, 11/13/2021

  • Excellent commentary!

    posted by Rob grimes

    Saturday, 11/13/2021

  • Thank you, totally agree. I was in my late 40s when I learned about the Japanese internment camps, from a work colleague whose grandparents were interned! Until we face the truth, our country will continue to be held back by hate and prejudice.

    posted by Deni Gottlieb

    Saturday, 11/13/2021

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