Maybe the most telling story in the news today is the arrest of Pawtucket Middle School social studies teacher Derrick Garforth for attempted vandalism of a Christopher Columbus statue in Providence. If it isn’t immediately obvious why the story is so relevant, consider these three comments from a long Facebook thread:
1. he was my history teacher and let me tell you, he’s the best history teacher i have ever had. if you all know the history of Christopher Columbus and still support the statues being up, you have a problem.
2. As a former student of his, he was always informed on current events and how history has influenced today. Clearly, he knows all the horrendous actions Columbus has done, because he studied it. He always taught us with the hopes of us being able to form our own opinions and was professional. Anyone still supporting Columbus is misinformed and remains to be apart of the problem.
3. Bail him out. He’s teaching the truth. Guess we gotta let the racist old ppl die out n let more educated young adults keep advocating…till we’re what’s left as old ppl😂 and our grand kids will be better for it, learning real history. School dumps us down to only knowing white favored history in a false narrative. Younger ppl know how to research with up to date resources instead of ppl who rely on old history books, from old ppl, and take word from uneducated ppl as the friggin almighty set in stone 😂
A short scene from the 1993 movie, Dazed and Confused, set in the ’70s, puts the lie to the idea that public schools are teaching “white favored history in a false narrative.” Indeed, Garforth, himself, proves that point. What we’re actually seeing now is the fruit of decades of dominance of the Howard Zinn counter-narrative, in which history is actually the story of white oppressors — what you might call a “white dis-favored history in a false narrative.”
Combine the new narrative with increased emphasis in public schools on student activism. On the latter, we see the evidence in everything from Central Falls’ hiring, literally, “social justice Warriors” to senior projects that require no research but just organization and initiation of some new socially aware club to the ubiquitous interest among colleges for applicants to have proven themselves to be activists. And we see the consequence in protests and vandalism, as well as in the comments above.
Note, in particular, the second comment. We’re told that Mr. Garforth taught students to form their own opinions, but the two former students above don’t give the impression of having received “both sides.” Indeed, the push to pick a side is part of the problem, because it leaves out the complexity of history and life. It also leaves little room for redemption or balancing the good with the bad within an individual.
Thus we see the truly insidious consequence of modern education, which is passed from colleges like Garforth’s alma mater, Rhode Island College, down to students in high school, middle school, and elementary school and then out into society at large: Allowing people to come to their own conclusions is phrased as a virtue, but those who choose wrongly have done so because they’re racist or evil or ignorant or “old people” who should hurry up and die off. If Garforth actually valued coming to our own opinions, he wouldn’t be the sort of person who attempts to vandalize a plywood box as a statement about the statue it’s protecting.
Instead, he’d be lamenting that we live in a society that has to box up statues because of the place to which our education system has led us. Young adults are play-acting as freedom fighters, seeking to liberate us from our history as if it is morally equivalent to having been liberated from a living dictator who has killed and oppressed generations (like Saddam Hussein).
The unfortunate irony that a worthwhile history education ought to empower any of us easily to see is that, if the “liberators” have their way, they’ll usher us right into the arms of a dictator of our own, distinguished only by the modern-progressive tone of his or her propaganda.