Maplewood Opinion Schools / Kids South Orange

LETTER: Columbia High School AP US Government Textbook Promotes Racism

Dear Editor,

I would like to respond to Anthony DelGreco’s open letter to the Board of Education regarding the petition circulated by Bryn Healy that calls for the removal of Wilson and DiLullo’s American Government: Institutions & Policies from the CHS curriculum.

In his argument that the book does not present a biased view of American history, DelGreco examines four examples of putative bias in the book by investigating their context. While I applaud him for his scholarly diligence, his summaries seem to defend misguided interpretations.

The language the authors use in each example indicates a morally lax approach to problems with race, gender and science, absolving responsibility in their determination. The first example is egregiously biased: to write that “people of a certain race are more likely to break the speed limit or smuggle drugs in their cars” rationalizes the racial profiling that has caused so much state violence against Black Americans. The authors’ framing this perspective in terms of reasonable argument (“But there is another side to this issue”) underlines a tacit assumption that racial profiling is an appropriate method of policing. Indoctrinating young minds with this belief encourages racism.

Likewise, interpreting the Civil War as merely the contest between “fundamental beliefs about how a democratic regime ought to be organized” ignores the war’s moral struggle against slavery. DelGreco’s examination of this (third) example exacerbates the problem: his explication of “common” American values that nonetheless are “not universally agreed upon” is both disturbingly vague and self-contradictory.

The sophistry of the second example – “The second view holds that if it is wrong to discriminate against African Americans and women, it is equally wrong to give them preferential treatment over other groups…” (p. 145) – ignores the deeper (historical) context, presenting as logical syllogism.

The fourth example simply dignifies climate-deniers.

Though I am willing to believe DelGreco’s assessment that the book is complex and dynamic, I see from these particular examples that it also quietly promotes dogmas inherent in white male supremacy and climate denial. Some revisions are clearly needed.

Sincerely,

Caroline S. Kelley

Maplewood, NJ

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