If I Should Teach American Exceptionalism…
do I also need to test for it as well? In other words, do I need to test my students to ensure that they leave my class understanding that the United States is an exceptional nation? Would I need to fail a student who vehemently disagrees and arrives at her own conclusions? What do I do with students who arrive at opposing ideas of what is exceptional about American history? Do I need to continue?
The more I listen to members of the Texas Board and other proponents of this nutty view the more disgusted I become. Do we really think so little of our students to believe that they need to be told what to think? What exactly is the point of education if we don’t even trust them to think through difficult questions about their own history? Perhaps I am missing something fundamental, but the thought that as a teacher I should intentionally work to steer my students to believe a set agenda is morally repugnant to me. This is called indoctrination, not education.
Honestly, I don’t care at all what my students believe about the broad sweep of American history. I am as indifferent to a student who believes that the United States is the greatest nation in the history of the world as I am with a student who believes the exact opposite. What I care about is whether they can articulate reasons for their preferred view. I care about whether they can utilize the tools of a historian that I do my best to teach year after year.
I can’t help but think that this agenda reflects a deep-seated insecurity on the part of those who believe that this is a history teacher’s responsibility. It stems from an inability to accept that free thinking people can, should, and must arrive at different conclusions about complex historical questions.
That feels better. 😀