Day By Day

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Perversion of History in Philadelphia

James Oakes, who knows what he's talking about, has some interesting comments on the recent decision to require all students in Philadelphia public schools to take an "afrocentric" history course.
It is based on a spurious body of pseudo-knowledge known as "Afrocentrism," wherein the great achievements of western civilization–philosophy, literature, mathematics, and science–are said to have had their origins in Africa, specifically in the ancient black civilization of Kemet, known outside Afrocentric circles as "Egypt." Philadelphia’s students will learn, among other things, that African mariners discovered America a century before Christopher Columbus. They will be taught that as many as 50 million Africans were shipped to the Americas during the Atlantic slave trade. (Correct answer: about twelve million. Isn’t that horrible enough?)
And here is the real tragedy:
It would have been nice if the debate over the Philadelphia proposal had focused on its serious intellectual flaws. But no. The entire debate, for and against, hinges on an entirely different matter: The proponents of the new requirement claim that it will boost the self-esteem of African American students, while the opponents worry that it will diminish the self esteem of whites and ethnic minorities.
Oakes rightly compares this obscenity to attempts on the part of white conservatives to sanitize American history courses. Both initiatives pervert not just the study of history, but also the entire educational process.

Read his comments here.

Read the Philadelphia Inquirer story on the course here.

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