Steve Russell: Shocking students with the truth about US history

A copy of the Magna Carta. Image from Wikipedia

Judge and professor Steve Russell explores the joys of informing college students about the historical and literary lies they have been taught in American schools:
Magna Carta, which they’ve been taught was the founding charter of freedom and ancestor of the U.S. Bill of Rights, did nothing immediately but coerce one king’s agreement to treat his vassals more fairly. That is, we conflate the rights of man with the interests of a few English lords.

Sophomores have the same reaction to the Founders of the United States owning slaves or stealing from Indians. The immediate reaction, when the warts on the Founders are new information, is that the historical narrative is all wrong. How could these scumbags have advanced democracy?

When so much has been hidden in K-12, it takes a year or two to internalize Martin Luther King, Jr.’s concise reformulation of Theodore Parker, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

It is literally true that without the ideas in Magna Carta, humankind can’t get to the Bill of Rights. That remains true even if it’s also true that the vast majority of English people—let alone the people of the world—were in exactly the same condition after Magna Carta as they were before. The pace of freedom may have been glacial, but glaciers, geologists claim, wield great power.

So it was with the U.S. Constitution, that the sophomores would be quick to point out empowered only white male property owners and completely shunned the soaring rhetoric Thomas Jefferson put in the Declaration of Independence. Perhaps the Founders had by that time thought through the implications of holding it to be self-evident that “all men are created equal.”

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Steve Russell: How to Shock Sophomores: Tell Them the Truth About U.S. History (Indian Country Today 4/11)

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