John Branch on the bizarre, euphemistic caption that appeared in an American history textbook.
In case you missed it, a caption on a map in the book (as you see) lumped African slaves in with willing immigrants as simply one more facet of our nation's growing workforce.
Words matter, and this textbook publisher blew it.
McGraw-Hill has apologized for the blunder and this Slate article is the best overall explanation of what happened and what happens next.
(And, BTW, when McGraw-Hill re-prints the textbook, corrects the on-line version and puts together the stickers it is offering to cover the caption, I hope they'll consider eliminating the redundant "agricultural" unless their historians know of another kind of plantation.)
The backsliding on human/civil rights in the past few decades has been considerably less overt and violent than what happened when Reconstruction was forced out in favor of Jim Crow laws and lynch mobs, but it's no less depressing for what it says about us.
Starting with the fact that "us" still never seems to include "them."
The whole American Exceptionalism viewpoint -- a keystone of rightwing political correctness -- was foolish faux-history back in the middle of the 20th century, but at least it could then be defended as naive, insular insensitivity rather than pure, purposeful arrogance.
There is a huge and critical difference between the "We didn't know" of the pre-Civil Rights Era and the current, deliberate attitude of "We don't care," which includes "shut up" and "get back in your place."
Add to that the misguided "Texas textbook" idea that downplays the role a large state like Texas plays in setting the standard for nationally-distributed texts.
I've heard that digital textbooks will allow states to micromanage what is taught in their schools, but, first of all, plenty of taxpayers are pushing back against the technology in schools that can make digital textbooks practical, and, second, if you read that above-linked Slate article, you'll realize the futility of thinking each state will competently and exhaustively review what they approve in any medium.
As writer Laura Moser was told by one source,
Reviewers mostly check whether the textbooks align with the curriculum standards. They might note problems they see while they're addressing that primary task, but they’re not systemically reviewing the textbooks from cover to cover. Moreover, some of the folks appointed to the review teams aren’t even qualified to do such a cover-to-cover review.
That isn't just a problem in states whose education departments are dominated by backward, knuckledragging know-nothings.
It's a universal issue where the curricular requirements are based on vague principles in which content is undefined and seemingly secondary.
If you've never read curriculum standards, I would suggest you train first by sitting down to a meal of Franco-American spaghetti and Jell-O, to be eaten with chopsticks.
Make that "with only one chopstick."
Juxtaposition of the Day
Still on the topic of whether you can change what something is by calling it something else, Wiley Miller fortuitously pops in to buttress Tank McNamara's ongoing discussion of one-day fantasy leagues.
I join in their confusion over why being able to analyze the attributes of a group of horses based on their prior performances is gambling while analyzing athletes in the same way is skill and, as noted previously, I share Tank's suspicion of what the deciding factor is in all this.
However, that paragon of wisdom, fairness and clear vision, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, addressed the issue and I think offered a frank explanation of why the league doesn't oppose it which basically comes down to the fact that it's legal in many states and that betting -- pardon me, "skillfully guessing" -- on individual performances of players from different teams doesn't offer much opportunity to impact the outcome of games.
He's right that you can't really expect a bribery scandal that would involve altering the yardage of this runningback in one game, the number of touchdowns scored by that receiver in a different game and the sacks recorded by a defensive back in yet a third game.
But the same could be said of betting slips in which you have to pick the winners of every game that week: Is Goodell suggesting that someone would be able to fix all 14 games?
Or that being able to analyze the teams in order to pick all 14 games correctly does not take skill?
Or that betting slips are not gambling?
Or that it doesn't matter that individual teams and broadcasters profit from FanDuel and DraftKings?
Or that his justification that the league doesn't allow use of its logo is anything but a ridiculous figleaf?
Pull the other one, Roger.
Add this to the Juxtaposition
Today's Rhymes With Orange is also about Mafia clowns.
And, yes, in fact, I do think Hilary Price is funny, funny like a clown. She amuses me. She makes me laugh.