American history! Whose heart doesn't race when you remember being initiated into its excitement and mystery in high school? There's the Logan Act of 1799! And the presidency of Benjamin Harrison! And the Open Door Policy. And, uh, and the Fordney–McCumber Tariff of 1922...and "A Return to Normalcy"... and the Federal Aid Highway Aczzzzzzzzzzzzzptsphttzzzz.
Almost everyone in high school hates history, and they should. Just 7% of U.S. students say history is their favorite subject, and considering how schools grind American history into mush, it's amazing the number's that high. It's like 7% said their favorite food is unflavored semolina.
Schools accomplish this with one simple technique: leaving out every single thing about U.S. history that's interesting. In high school history classes there's never been any conflict in America – and no one filled with greed, or hate, or lust for power. In other words, no recognizable human beings. Everyone always wanted the best for everybody in the best of all possible worlds. It's been 236 years of interchangeable robots singing "America the Beautiful."
It's obvious why schools have to do this – real history is dangerous. If the people in charge 50 years ago were horribly flawed, students might consider the possibility that the ones in charge now are too. But all people, especially the kind that spend their lives seeking power, are horribly flawed, and its their flaws that make them human and interesting. So schools know they're being constantly monitored by the people currently at the top of the pyramid in case they slip up and accidentally let something interesting into the curriculum. (This is really no exaggeration – while Dick Cheney was doing horrible things in the present, his wife Lynne was constantly on guard against students finding out about horrible things U.S. leaders did in the past.*)
Young Americans have understandably responded to this with massive passive resistance, refusing to learn anything at all about the past. And that's fine with the people running things. Their first choice would be to have kids opening each school day with a hymn to the Rockefellers and ExxonMobil, but failing that they'd rather students know nothing. If kids knew how and why George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003, they might ask questions in 2031 when George P. Bush invades Iceland.
That's why you're not going to see a glowing review of Oliver Stone's new book and 10-part Showtime series, The Untold History of the United States, in the New York Times anytime soon. It's just too interesting. Stone, together with the historian Peter Kuznick, has taken almost everything compelling about the last seventy years of American foreign policy and put it all in one place....
...get the book, both for yourself and for any high school history teachers you know who are independently wealthy and won't mind getting fired.
*In fairness to Dick and Lynne, this works the same in every country. According to Anne Elizabeth Moore, a journalist who's spent a lot of time in Cambodia, most younger Cambodians have no idea there ever was such a thing as the Khmer Rouge.
Let us understand that we are a nation of amnesiacs--this induced by convention, by culture (same thing), by commerce, by capital...
Let us understand that our daily lives are FULL of entertainments. We call these distractions if we are not entertained by them. But it is our everything. If you have a smart phone you are distracted. If you have a FB account you are distracted. If you write a blog about "real time" events you are distracted. Or entertained.
Let us understand that adults are no less distracted than children; How is Facebook not exactly like Minecraft in intent and use?
Let us understand that distraction is our very "ground" of discourse.
Let us choose a "side" and watch. Choose, go on. D or R; Ass or Elephant; Progressive Racist or Conservative Racist; Drone A or Drone B. Or maybe we should stick to education: Aronowitz and Apple; Hirsch (Coleman) and Ravitch; Finn and the Acolytes of Milty.
Let us understand that your newspaper is literally more to the good as birdcage liner than as honest content for thinking.
Let us understand that college and university is a business with no intention of educating to "equal opportunity."
Let us understand that all proposals by billionaires are eugenicist.
Let us understand that there is NO national interest but one created for mass consumption that serves a narrow and personal interest of oligarchs who own all the weapons.
Let us understand that REAL dissent will lead to your being jailed and deprived of the freedom to live under governing totalities.
Give us this day our daily bread is still our defining interest, our real Golden Rule. Don't forget to say "please." ("Men bow down to the lord of bread first and foremost." D. H. Lawrence)
Or, perhaps there is an Everlasting NO out there somewhere...can you hear it?