I note our slavery history. Yes, we practiced slavery. But we also ended it voluntarily, at great sacrifice, while the practice continues in many countries still today!
That is a remark by Pam Mazanec (photo), who, according to a Talking Points Memo article
was elected to represent Colorado's 4th Congressional district on the [Colorado State Board of Education]. [She] jumped into a discussion about the AP History course framework Saturday on a Facebook page that describes itself as "a place where teachers and parents are encouraged to speak freely about their issues, questions, and concerns in the Douglas County School District"
A controversy is erupting in Colorado over the Advanced Placement (A.P.) History curriculum. Many students feel that the curriculum is driven by a political agenda, not a quest to promote and practice intellectual honesty in the history classroom.
Pam Mazanec's notions relating to slavery and American exceptionalism are exceptionally problematic and fly close to another concept embraced by many proponents of American exceptionalism: that the U.S. Civil War was not really a war about slavery.
In 1860, 89% of the population of the states that seceded from the union were slaves. Five years later, it was 0% everywhere in the republic. What happened in those 5 intervening years? About 700,000 Americans died in the uniforms of two conflicting American armies. One out of every 5 white Southern men aged 13–43 died in those years, and for what? Voluntary emancipation?
(Photo: some men in North Carolina recently reenacting voluntary emancipation. What a cooperative enterprise is looks to be!)
It might be noted, there was signed and enacted amidst that Civil War, an Emancipation Proclamation from Washington D.C., not a Manumission Proclamation from Richmond, Virginia. By that Emancipation Proclamation, slaves were freed by federal authority only in those areas under federal military control, in part because in areas under secessionist armies' control there was desire to the point of death in combat to preserve "the Southern way of life", the foundation of which was undeniably slavery, whatever else stemming from that slavery system some Southern romanticists might prefer American high school students of focus on instead.
When slaves make up 89% of a population, clearly they and what they do are going to be foundational to the society's daily and also idealized "way of life", including myriad institutions cultural, military, and economic.
That before 1860 4/5s of the U.S.A's South's population were slaves and after the Civil War none were is not merely a coincidence! Such a concept is so seriously absurd that not even Monty Python's Flying Circus could redeem it.
Why shouldn't this also be taught in American high schools: the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, British and French got going with the slave trade and the U.S.A. joined in; but—rather exceptionally—the United Kingdom in the 1800s not only abolished the slave trade but applied its national naval prowess and power to disrupting the slave trade internationally.
One might note: Yes, but the UK's empire was grossly exploitative and inhumane!
Yes, to a huge extent that's true, too.
And that's the sort of thing that in large part the study of history should examine: multiple sets of facts and observations and how they are (and aren't) related.
But, saying that the U.S. voluntarily ended slavery is a mostly facts-ignoring and not facts-based narrative; no more a truly facts-based concept than Creationism is compared to the plain facts of evolution or Scientology's notions of alien-based human toxicity is to the plain facts of the Germ Theory of Disease.
(Graphic about The Abolition Bill of 1807; click to enlarge.)
Let's get it right in classrooms in Colorado and across the whole republic: every nation is at least a bit exceptional, by which I don't just mean unique but actually excellent in some regard. The U.S.A. is—we are—in fact, excellent in many, many regards worth noting and celebrating, but to make that a pedagogical goal for public school history education is far too much like promoting intellectual dishonestly by omission, to have half-truth-telling as an agenda; it's not an agenda of attempting to tell the whole story. It's not an agenda of education. It's akin to an agenda of indoctrination.
(An extended, somewhat allegorical, metaphor might highlight the absurdity of the implications of Mazanec's view as I understand it as it's been reported: Mr. Federal Government looked like he might ask his smaller twin brother Mr. Southern States to quit taking up two seats on the bus and give one to Mr. Slave who's being forced to stand while also chained to Mr. Southern States' seat.
Mr. Southern States is so excited to voluntarily unlock the chains and let Mr. Slave sit down that he's prepared to...die fighting Mr. Federal Government.
Mr. Southern States is annoyed by Mr. Federal Government's increasingly unsubtle complaints and feels not completely unjustifiably menaced by them. His ill-advised solution: strike first! He suddenly punches Mr. Federal Government right in his Sumter!
Mr. Southern States is a scrappy fellow, for sure! But his bigger brother carries quite a wallop. Mr. Southern States loses the fist-a-cuffs and passes out.
He wakes up bloodied and much weaker and sees Mr. Freeman (formerly Mr. Slave) in a seat now and also can't believe his ears when he hears Mr. Federal Government say that Mr. Freeman's now an adopted sibling in the family.
Mr. Southern States is so beside himself at being beside a seated, unshackled, and adopted Mr. Freeman that he badgers him to more and then lesser degrees for the rest of the bus trip (which is actually still in progress), so much so that for quite some time Mr. Slave feels he has to take an empty seat at the back of the bus, one Mr. Southern States clearly marks with some helpful signage.
Mr. Federal Government at first lets this behavior continue—promoting familial concord and all that. But, eventually, he sees to it that Mr. Freeman gets his seat back. Too be sure, the badgering is less so over time compared to when Mr. Southern States was trying to do things like gag Mr. Freeman or break his bones.
While it is true that these days Mr. Freeman is returned to his previous seat, it seems that sometimes Mr. Southern States still hasn't fully grown to accept this.
Ever-watchful patriot kin Pam Mazanec looks on and declares of Mr. Southern States, "What a nice man, voluntarily giving up his second seat like that. We're such an exceptional family!" (Yeah, you can say that again.))