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Ch. 4 - Red Eyes 
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 Ch. 4 - Red Eyes
Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong - by James W. Loewen

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Ch. 4 - Red Eyes



Fri Feb 01, 2019 4:20 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 4 - Red Eyes
Chapter 4 Discussion Questions:

1. In current geopolitics, which country or countries besides the United States do you feel exhibit high degrees of cultural imperialism in their dealings with other countries? How cultural imperialism exhibited by non-European countries?

2. Syncretism, the blending or merging of ideas seems like a good idea, especially if we take the best parts of others’ thinking to improve our own. Syncretism is also the basis of many fears surrounding globalisation we face today; are these fears founded or unfounded? Why?

3. When Loewen discusses interculturation to what do you believe he’s referring? Is this the American ideal of the Melting Pot? Does interculturation differ from syncretism? Is this difference semantic only?

4. Loewen points out many of the flaws of how Native Americans are handled in American historical education. Currently it seems in America that if you actually want to learn about Native Americans, one has to go out of his way to do so, usually by going to college and majoring in something directly or tangentially related to Native Americans (e.g. Native American Studies, Anthropology, etc.) How would a balanced approach to this work? Would a “history of the American continents” be a more fitting scope for what we should instruct in high school/college?

5. Loewen has been keen to continue to suggest balance as a way forward for history education in the US. If we attempted to address balance, especially apropos to the Native Americans, what would we change? What do you suppose teaching high school juniors (third year) American history “traditionally” and then teaching high school seniors (fourth year) American history as told by Native Americans? Does this come to balance? Laterally, how can we balance teaching the American experience from other groups’ perspective as well (e.g. African Americans also have a very long, and very rich history in the Americas) without tipping the scales too much toward one group or another?

6. Loewen introduces the idea of the “frontier” being a spurious misnomer and a European cultural discount of the Native Americans already living in the Americas. Putting that aside for the moment, is the idea of the frontier important to Europeans? Or to all people? Is the “frontier” simply a trope introduced by those who seek to conquer or annex land? Many Sci-Fi works involve the idea of the frontier as an important backdrop for their stories (e.g. Star Trek, SeaQuest DSV, The Expanse, etc.) Is this part of the “human spirit” wherein we all have a natural, innate curiosity and wish to explore the world around us, or is it really just imperialism wherein we wish to make everything of which we are aware familiar and thus part of our domain?

7. Loewen indicates the acceptance of the Indian Wars and the genocide of the Native Americans owes a lot to the subtlely advanced idea the Native Americans were simply victims of progress and history. On the face of this, it is easy to see the flaw in the logic and the underlying untruth. However, recently we have ventured forward into societal changes that have a real cost in human lives. For example, the general increase in speed limits on motorways in the US has led to more auto accidents. Self-driving cars have had a few fatalities associated with them, which surprised none of the proponents, citing “known human costs” and “price of progress”. At what point do we as a society decide something is worth it or not worth it in human life terms? How should these decisions be made? And by whom?



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Post Re: Ch. 4 - Red Eyes
Slowly making my way through the book, I don't have good answers to some of your excellent questions, but it's interesting that the political correctness, grievance studies, anti-colonialism etc. that seems so prevalent in humanities at the college level (at least from the stories you hear, particularly at the top schools) hasn't found its way to high school instruction as much as you might expect. Of course there is lots of inertia with textbook adoption and teacher training.



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Post Re: Ch. 4 - Red Eyes
capricorn152244 wrote:

1. In current geopolitics, which country or countries besides the United States do you feel exhibit high degrees of cultural imperialism in their dealings with other countries? How cultural imperialism exhibited by non-European countries?


Like Dexter, I am getting through this only slowly. I find myself both fascinated and repulsed. It is indeed sobering to realize how much I had been handed a pack of cliches which seemingly could not be questioned.

In answer to this question, it is clear to me that Chinese culture is highly insular, in much the same way that European culture is. Yet both have been influenced heavily by each other. We tend to think it is a one-way process of technology from the West being adapted and ideology of Marxism being adopted. Yet we also know that Marx had little to say about the peasant-feudal society of Warlord China overthrown by the Communist Party, and if asked, would probably have declared that it needed to become capitalist (at least to the extent that Russia had by 1917) in order to evolve into socialism. The Chinese Communists made their own way (borrowing heavily from Leninist modes of direct culural transformation). Their technique of self-criticism, for example, seems to have been both effective and either invented by them or transformed so heavily as to be unrecognizable as a borrowing. Similarly technological borrowings from China had become important determinants of evolution in European society, most notably paper and printing, and gunpowder, so it makes little sense to draw any general conclusions from the fact that borrowing moved mostly in the opposite direction after the Industrial Revolution.

Singapore, which is one of the most successful societies on earth (Crazy Rich Asians?), represents a good example of the syncretistic blending of the two cultures, and stands as the shining example of the benefits of Benevolent Dictatorship.

To properly understand the interaction, both competitive and cooperative, between these two great divisions of human society would take a lifetime of study. What is being offered for our consideration with this book is the way the dramatically effective program of popular education gets hijacked by the machinery of oligarchic manipulation. Rather than holding that knowledge of the truth will always benefit the society, pressures to enforce particular narratives have shaped the way the facts are edited. This chapter really brought this home to me, because it is obvious that the same dynamic which led European settler society to find a pretext for war in 1812, (when their real goal was dispossession of Native American peoples,) continued to shape the editing for either white innocence, by contrasting savages with the civilized, or alternatively white inevitability in which we may not have had the virtues of tolerance or humanism but at least we were overwhelmingly more powerful. It is sobering that this advantage may have been entirely one of biological resistance to disease. It is even more sobering that the supposed benefits of Christian society gave way time after time to the simple thirst for power and land.

It has occurred to me that the stiff-necked insistence that success reflected the will of God, promoted especially by Calvinism, might explain why the English colonies did not simply enslave the earlier settlers, as the Spaniards did, (though they took plenty of slaves, which I had not realized), yet also could not accept overt syncretism. It was an ideology of broad-based power of an economic nature, rather than the feudal ideology of power through violent domination by a thin stratum of warriors (the well-known tension between Roundheads and Cavaliers enacted the struggle between the two, but so did the 30 Years War in Germany of approximately the same time, in which "total war" tactics of stripping the land and denying livelihood to the peasants has been said to have set back the German economy by 100 years). Odd that an insistence on ''popular" virtue led to genocidal results where "aristocratic" virtue of a domination system allowed many more to survive.

Most seriously, for me, this chapter led me to consider the extent to which shapers of the historical narrative reflect the priorities of what we might call Entrepreneurs of Domination. The railroad barons of the North were just a variation on the earlier Jacksonian conquest of the Southeast from the Five Civilized Tribes, which culminated in the Trail of Tears. The pattern is that particular innovators prove effective at marshalling the levers of narrative for a process that really just comes down to their own enrichment and elevation. Jackson's evasion and erosion of the rule of law, with echoes in our time, is not just the time-honored motif of the man on horseback riding in to tame chaos. He revolutionized American politics by marshalling the populism of the expansionary wave made possible by his Indian Wars, and seemingly tolerated constitutional arrangements and the high-falutin theories of Jefferson, Madison, Marshall and Jay only to the extent that these fit with his drive to a position of dominance. It's worth remembering that Jackson repudiated both Secession and Nullification when it was New Englanders promoting these options against the Southern dominance of the time.

Red Eyes makes the case that the most inexorable shaper of our narrative was simply the insistence on "our" self-determination, with efforts to include Native voice repudiated over and over. The Law was not at all sacred, it was just ours. We did not want to have to deal with the complication of "outsiders" having influence, and over and over those who argued fo). r accepting such influence on the basis of either right or pragmatism were simply excluded from the arrangements of power. While that undoubtedly represented a convenient cleavage in people's perceptions, discerning "Christian" European society by contrast with "Wild" (which is what the French term "sauvage" means) Native American society, it also clearly overlooks the efforts by land-owners and Entrepeneurs of Domination to occupy positions of power within a particular set of arrangements and therefor to create an "us" that they would dominate. (Zinn brings some of this out in his People's History).

Some of my ancestors come from an area in North Central Pennsylvania, south of the Finger Lakes district of New York, in which Native Americans mingled freely with Europeans. One in particular is referred to in the family lore as the Red-Headed Irishman and seems to have come from England, apparently to escape a marriage, and taken several Native women as consorts, whether simultaneously or not I do not know. This kind of free-wheeling society was frowned on by Christian culture, (even though similar experiences may have led to the Free Love communes which grew up in Upstate New York and Western Ohio in the days of the Erie Canal, and possibly even to polygamous Mormonism which arose around that time and place), and when my mother came to the area in the 80s to investigate the records for genealogical purposes, her questions about the modern descendants of such liaisons, known locally as The Pool (or perhaps Poole), were met with stony silence and refusal to cooperate. I know of similar intermarriage patterns in North Carolina and Navajo country. Might the temptations of Native culture, so well documented in this chapter and widely known at the time, have led to a very different evolution of society in America if there had been no pattern of policing by cultural imperialists? We may never know, but we can look back and see the irony of overlooking imperialistic abuses even while policing family relations. The powerful are in a position to arrange for excuses to be made, and guarding that power may involve scape-goating the "wild" ways of those who are in a position to transgress with impunity at the bottom of the heap. Shades of the modern abortion debate.



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Post Re: Ch. 4 - Red Eyes
A friend, a 72-year-old former Marine colonel, proudly displayed a t-shirt he bought in N. Dakota. It showed two American Indian warriors below the words "Homeland Security" in caps, and below the picture was, "Fighting terrorism since 1492."
capricorn152244 wrote:
Chapter 4 Discussion Questions:
1. In current geopolitics, which country or countries besides the United States do you feel exhibit high degrees of cultural imperialism in their dealings with other countries? How cultural imperialism exhibited by non-European countries?

The U.S. showed cultural imperialism toward native populations, although that charge seems the mildest that can be leveled at us with regard to Native peoples and black slaves. I suppose I'm not connecting with the question with regard to other countries. We spread our influence militarily, and we did (and do) attempt to make other countries adopt our concept of democratic government, which is part of our culture. Our popular culture spread like wildfire, but that was presumably a welcome import. We've accepted culture from many other countries, so there has been reciprocity. It';s possible my eyes aren't open to the extent of our "cultural imperialism."
Quote:
2. Syncretism, the blending or merging of ideas seems like a good idea, especially if we take the best parts of others’ thinking to improve our own. Syncretism is also the basis of many fears surrounding globalisation we face today; are these fears founded or unfounded? Why?

Of course, the more xenophobic elements in the country don't pause to consider that cultural blending can be positive. The fear of adulteration, contamination, and perhaps most of all, replacement, is too strong.
Quote:
3. When Loewen discusses interculturation to what do you believe he’s referring? Is this the American ideal of the Melting Pot? Does interculturation differ from syncretism? Is this difference semantic only?

I think interculturation is the more "enlightened" (or academic) term for the Melting Pot. The Melting Pot is intended to idealize a meeting in the civic sphere, transcending all ethnic differences, while those differences are given room to flourish to some extent. I say to some extent, because it's essential to have a national language. History happened to favor English.
Quote:
4. Loewen points out many of the flaws of how Native Americans are handled in American historical education. Currently it seems in America that if you actually want to learn about Native Americans, one has to go out of his way to do so, usually by going to college and majoring in something directly or tangentially related to Native Americans (e.g. Native American Studies, Anthropology, etc.) How would a balanced approach to this work? Would a “history of the American continents” be a more fitting scope for what we should instruct in high school/college?

While I'm never certain of what was said to me as I occupied my desk in those years of schooling, I don't believe that I was told about Indian slavery, just one example of an omission that softened the blow for kids who needed to receive a positive image of their country. To be told of both extermination (which was difficult to downplay) and slavery would have been too much to handle. This is just an example of what is withheld for the sake of patriotic feeling. Yes, I think your idea of history of the American continents is a very good one, though there would be howls at any course not titled U. S. History. Let's dispel the message that what happened on these continents before Columbus arrived was just a primitive and insignificant prelude to the deliverance by Western Civilization.
Quote:
5. Loewen has been keen to continue to suggest balance as a way forward for history education in the US. If we attempted to address balance, especially apropos to the Native Americans, what would we change? What do you suppose teaching high school juniors (third year) American history “traditionally” and then teaching high school seniors (fourth year) American history as told by Native Americans? Does this come to balance? Laterally, how can we balance teaching the American experience from other groups’ perspective as well (e.g. African Americans also have a very long, and very rich history in the Americas) without tipping the scales too much toward one group or another?

Great question. There is always a point of view, the challenge is to own it. This is what the textbooks don't do, according to Loewen and others. They peddle an Olympian perspective of U.S. History, when there can be none. I don't know about the viability of balance within a single course. This might get head-spinning for students. Maybe it is better to do as you suggest, openly offer two looks at the same subject. So much of learning occurs through contrast.
Quote:
6. Loewen introduces the idea of the “frontier” being a spurious misnomer and a European cultural discount of the Native Americans already living in the Americas. Putting that aside for the moment, is the idea of the frontier important to Europeans? Or to all people? Is the “frontier” simply a trope introduced by those who seek to conquer or annex land? Many Sci-Fi works involve the idea of the frontier as an important backdrop for their stories (e.g. Star Trek, SeaQuest DSV, The Expanse, etc.) Is this part of the “human spirit” wherein we all have a natural, innate curiosity and wish to explore the world around us, or is it really just imperialism wherein we wish to make everything of which we are aware familiar and thus part of our domain?

Phwew, that's a pregnant question. How can we individuals step away from our own history to answer whether the frontier is only a cultural trope? It is certainly a powerful Romantic notion for Americans. The idea would also seem inseparable from the larger notion of progress; it's always advancinginto and beyond the frontier. Without that cultural ideal, it might be doubted whether frontier would be part of worldview. While all human beings have sought to remake nature to their convenience, Europeans took that to the max, entailing the crushing of frontier and the construction of a new one, in space, for instance.
Quote:
7. Loewen indicates the acceptance of the Indian Wars and the genocide of the Native Americans owes a lot to the subtlely advanced idea the Native Americans were simply victims of progress and history. On the face of this, it is easy to see the flaw in the logic and the underlying untruth. However, recently we have ventured forward into societal changes that have a real cost in human lives. For example, the general increase in speed limits on motorways in the US has led to more auto accidents. Self-driving cars have had a few fatalities associated with them, which surprised none of the proponents, citing “known human costs” and “price of progress”. At what point do we as a society decide something is worth it or not worth it in human life terms? How should these decisions be made? And by whom?

I, and I would think all of us, have a conflict of interest because we would not be here today if the Indians were not treated exactly as they were. That applies as well to other tragedies of history. So we perhaps unconsciously make these allowances and rationalizations.

On human costs, our calculations seem less than rational many times, which is not necessarily "bad." If it could be demonstrated that self-driving cars in wide use will decrease auto fatalities by 25% overall, while causing a considerable number, we will surely resist this movement. There is something more horrifying about getting killed by a machine than by a human driver of a machine. Also regarding human cost and monetary cost, we often hear statements such as, "If only one life is saved, the cost no matter how great is worth it," but we don't operate that way. Some deaths are acceptable when the existence of a technology is so vital to our way of life, and we don't have enough money to reduce risks to zero anyway. I don't think anyone really decides these matters; we just tacitly agree to carry on.



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Post Re: Ch. 4 - Red Eyes
DWill wrote:
Quote:
2. Syncretism, the blending or merging of ideas seems like a good idea, especially if we take the best parts of others’ thinking to improve our own. Syncretism is also the basis of many fears surrounding globalisation we face today; are these fears founded or unfounded? Why?

Of course, the more xenophobic elements in the country don't pause to consider that cultural blending can be positive. The fear of adulteration, contamination, and perhaps most of all, replacement, is too strong.

I wonder whether this may be in the process of changing. Just to give an example, evangelical Christianity now comes with drums. Only in the last 20 years, I was told in Africa, have Christian churches been accepting drumming and dancing in the worship service. In traditional African society drumming and dancing are part of the "sinews" of the culture, as explained in "Things Fall Apart". They are often linked to sexual arousal, sometimes purposely, so I'm not surprised that the missionaries forbade them. But they also create "a spirit" (as was explained to me by someone who teaches drumming to tourists, in West Africa).

Recently on Public Radio I heard an interesting piece about how synchronous movement develops empathy. In a psychological experiment, infants are bounced with music being played, and an adult facing the infant either bounces synchronously or to a different rhythm, either faster or slower. The babies were something like 20 percent more likely to offer assistance to the adult afterward (pretending to drop something and have trouble picking it up) if the bouncing had been synchronous. Rhythmic movement develops a spirit.

Perhaps because we are less afraid of sexuality these days, Western religion has become open to this sort of subtle influence.

Other forces may be at work. The whole idea that "our" females somehow belong to "our group" and have an obligation to outbreed other groups is quite bizarre in the anti-patriarchal society that has developed. Out in the wilds of 4Chan there seem to still be young men who think that way: there is an "us" that has some right to breeding stock. But this "you will not replace us" rhetoric just doesn't translate into mainstream motivations and thought patterns anymore. Is this individualism corroding social cohesion? Or is it reason demanding a re-think, individualistically or not, about proper goals and proper human relations?

DWill wrote:
Quote:
5. Loewen has been keen to continue to suggest balance as a way forward for history education in the US. If we attempted to address balance, especially apropos to the Native Americans, what would we change? What do you suppose teaching high school juniors (third year) American history “traditionally” and then teaching high school seniors (fourth year) American history as told by Native Americans? Does this come to balance? Laterally, how can we balance teaching the American experience from other groups’ perspective as well (e.g. African Americans also have a very long, and very rich history in the Americas) without tipping the scales too much toward one group or another?

Great question. There is always a point of view, the challenge is to own it. This is what the textbooks don't do, according to Loewen and others. They peddle an Olympian perspective of U.S. History, when there can be none. I don't know about the viability of balance within a single course. This might get head-spinning for students. Maybe it is better to do as you suggest, openly offer two looks at the same subject. So much of learning occurs through contrast.
I rather like this "two looks" idea. It shouldn't be offered with the idea that those are the only two possible views, but rather with the explicit notion that more diversity is possible and the contrast between two looks shows how important it is to question our assumptions and re-consider our perspectives. I'm not sure I think accuracy is the totality of goals in teaching history, but nobody wants to be hoodwinked.



Mon Apr 08, 2019 2:42 pm
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