Many teachers, politicians, and parents across the United States believe that the public school system is seriously underfunded. For decades, parents have shown time and again in polls that a lack of funding is their number one concern about schools.
This lack of funding often leads schools to hold onto text books that are simple outdated. And that appears to be the case for the school which Eileen Cutright's daughter attends. The Texas mom recently took to Twitter to share a passage from a book that plays down the horrors of slavery.
The passage of the book that Curtright's and her daughter took issue with reads:
"But the 'peculiar institution,' as Southerns call it, like all human institutions should not be oversimplified. While there were many slaves (although killing and maiming were against the law in any state), there were also kind and generous owners. The institution was as complex as the people involved."
"Though most slaves were whipped at some point in their lives, a few never felt the lash. Nor did all salves work in the fields. Some were house servants or skilled artisans. Many may not have been terribly unhappy with their lot, for they knew no other. But certainly others were, as the Nat Turner revolt revealed."
The book itself is a republished version of A History of the United States by Daniel J. Boorstin, Brooks Mather Kelley, and Ruth Frankel Boorstin. The original book was published by Pearson/Prentice Hall in 1981, while the 'Prentice Hall Classics' version of the book was published in 2005, along with teacher and student versions that were published later.
Curtright also shared photos of the book that show a copyright date of 2007.
Author Daniel J. Boorstin, who was appointed the twelfth Librarian of the United States Congress in 1975, was born in 1914 and died in 2004. While Brooks Mather Kelley, a Yale professor, was born in 1929 and passed away in 2013. Ruth Frankel Boorstin, a writer and editor who was married to Daniel J. Boorstin, passed away in 2013 at the age of 95.
Unsurprisingly, the suggestion that some slaves may have enjoyed the horrors of slavery outraged many. Curtright replied to her original tweet, adding:
Amazing to know that some moms homeschool to protect their kids from the liberal agenda of our public schools— Eileen Curtright (@eileencurtright) April 17, 2018
Others were just as unhappy that the book was being given to school students.
Yes, and that a master could be “kind and generous” to a person they robbed of their freedom and their labor, as if being property isn’t necessarily an offense against human dignity— Eileen Curtright (@eileencurtright) April 17, 2018
As long as you say outrageous, morally repugnant things in an lofty reasonable tone, it’s fine— Eileen Curtright (@eileencurtright) April 17, 2018
Curtright explained that she was only aware of the passage because her daughter was outraged by it.
Others pointed out the obvious flaw in the argument.
Some teachers suggested better resources for understanding the moment in United States history.
As a history teacher, I haven't taught slavery units for a long time, but I always would include excerpts from Frederick Douglass's autobiography. His stories display the atrocities of slavery much more than any textbook would.— Andrew Mulberry (@MulberrAndrew) April 17, 2018
This teacher complained that many other books do exactly the same thing.
I teach 8th grade history & this is a very frustrating part of the curriculum; it is difficult to find materials that don't oversimplify, diminish, and just plain old "white wash" how awful life was for slaves. Searching frantically for something better, but time is running out.— Joanne Gifford (@AllWork_NoPlay) April 17, 2018
Other Twitter users said that they'd been taught the same thing as children.
I agree. It was skimmed over...— NatalieSeesRed (@ThatBlondeNat) April 17, 2018
I remember learning that slavery was crucial to Southern crops & food supply. The North wanted to invade farm land with industry. We went to war to save the Southern way of life & farmland.
Nothing to see here. Next chapter.
That's what was in my textbook in the '80s though. Schools are regionally controlled, and unified state public school curricula in the south were first enacted during Reconstruction, and so they had a very specific historical agenda whose consequences clearly linger even today.— William Ray (@VerinEmpire) April 17, 2018
Many were just plain outraged.
Wow. So this school textbook is saying there were “some very fine people on both sides” concerning slavery.— Kristin (@FeralCrone) April 17, 2018
Because being a skilled artisan cancels out the dehumanization of literally being owned as chattel. This is horrible.— Mrs. Senior (@senior_mrs) April 17, 2018
What do you think of the outrage?