I was talking to my son today about the current news out of Baltimore. He is young still and taking history in high school, which is to say he is in an environment where (at last) some effort is being made to tie current events to their precedents. His high school experience is significant in that it is situated in the city, not in the suburbs. There is a racial divide in our town like there is in so many others, and it is reflected in the make-up of his school. I think he is aware of the impact Baltimore is having on a number of his classmates, but he is only dimly aware of the broader pattern.
So tonight, I walked him through what I could remember about similar events. A sense of scope and scale helps.
There were the Watts Riots of 1967. Lasted a week.
There were riots in 1968 in Louisville, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Chicago, Wilmington DE & Detroit as well as Baltimore after MLK was assassinated. They lasted at least four days. I recalled only they were wide-spread, but I had to look-up how much so.
There were the Rodney King Riots in Los Angeles in 1992 which lasted six days following the acquittal of the officers. I looked up the tape of the beating and showed it to my son. I let him make his own assessment of what the police did. I pointed out to him that some states and municipalities tried shortly after that to make it a criminal offense to photograph police on duty. I remember that incident being the proximal cause.
We have now had the Ferguson unrest which has run a protracted period from August 9 to August 25 in 2014, and again in November 24 to December 2.
And now back to Baltimore, April 19 through April 25, and possibly beyond because the indictments brought down on six police officers are not verdicts. My sense of the situation is this: two years from now there will be at least four if not six acquittals—plus one more riot.
I don’t know about the media in your area, or the scuttle-butt at your local diner, but I know I have not seen a single article or news report that dares put these events into a single account, and I think there is a reason for that. I am only hoping that the teachers in high school make an effort to bring the headlines into the broader context it deserves, but I do not have to look far to see the resistance forming.
Friday morning, my wife showed me a flyer she had received in the mail. “Free-Tuition” for an online curriculum. Quality Education! Come to our free introductory seminar! Carolina Connections Academy, it said, and all the meeting locations were in the suburbs. I then turned to something I had read this past summer, Diane Ravitch’s book Reign of Error, page 185 to be specific. Connections Academy is a vehicle of ALEC, not just here but in many states–New York, Tennessee, Connecticut, Florida. You know ALEC, don’t you? (Ravitch lays it all out and I urge you to read it.
That same day, I read this in the Raleigh News & Observer, the paper of record for my general area:
State high school social studies teachers would be encouraged to use curriculum materials prepared by an institute funded by the conservative Koch family, under a proposal the Department of Public Instruction presented Wednesday. The Bill of Rights Institute, based in Virginia, had a $100,000, sole-source contract with the state to help develop materials for teachers to use in a course on founding principles that the state requires students to take. The institute was founded in 1999 and receives grants from David H. Koch, the Charles Koch Foundation, and the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation, according to a website on Koch family philanthropies. The state Department of Public Instruction decision to “highly recommend” that school districts use the Bill of Rights Institute material comes as the state is embroiled in a controversy over teaching history – whether schools have students study the founding principles as the law requires, whether AP U.S. History meets those requirements and whether the college-level course developed by the College Board has a liberal bias. The 390-page founding principles curriculum includes readings, activities, questions students should discuss and references to online resources for the 10 principles described in a 2011 law inspired by proposed legislation promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group backed by major corporations. (Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/education/article10182779.html#storylink=cpy)
In the past week, I have listened to Chris Hedges speak about the tinderbox he perceives. I have read Ian Welch who points out it only takes a few uprisings to realize that burning down your own neighborhood accomplishes nothing. Martin Luther King was smart enough to lead his marches out from the ghettos, not march around in them.
Will history come alive? If not now, when?
This post was read 215 times.