So is it ever too early to start teaching our children the truth about history? Particularly when this truth reveals the horrors of our nation’s “discovery”? Hmmm. I don’t know. I am far from an authority on early childhood development. But conventional thinking seems to suggest that telling young children the truth about violent conquest of the early settlers, the genocide of Native Americans, and the blood-stained land on which this nation was built would be too damaging for young minds. Hence, we must dress them up as “benevolent” Pilgrims and happy-go-lucky Indians every year at this time to teach moral lessons about sharing, hospitality and generosity.
Yet are such revisionist narratives about protecting the young minds of children or extending the myths of a noble national identity? Its not like this nation is particularly concerned about sheltering school-age children from images and narratives of violence any other time.
Think about it: tragically, most American children grew up on a steady play schedule of cowboys and Indians and/or cops and robbers in the backyard. According to statistics released by the National Institute on Media and the Family, an average of 20-25 violent acts are shown on children’s television an hour and 61% of kids’ programming contains violence. And as a proficient play-date father myself, I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have been attacked by a lightsaber or sword-wielding six-year-old!
So why is it only when preparing the Columbus Day, Thanksgiving Day, or even Martin Luther King Day programs that we get all skittish about violence and conflict around our kids? Columbus Day becomes a celebration of “discovery.” European conquest gets framed as dinner party between Pilgrims and Indians. And American racial apartheid becomes the story of how Martin King simply wanted children of all colors to share ice cream on the playground.
It’s time for us to stop acting like little Johnny and Sally can’t handle the truth of their past at school. Especially if these are the same children who watch Star Wars and X-Men on the weekend! Besides, I doubt the truth could be anymore dangerous than inundating and abusing their young minds with untruths and tall tales about festive gatherings arranged by the indigenous Martha Stewart of the 17th century. I think its time that we all grew up!!!!