This Thomas Jefferson Bio for Kids Seems to Be Missing Something

October 28, 2016 Featured, History, Politics / Religion Comments (0) 432

A friend and former coworker shared these photos on Facebook. Her daughter picked up a book from the school library about Thomas Jefferson–specifically it’s “Thomas Jefferson” by author Doraine Bennett, published in 2012 by Georgia-based State Standards Publishing as part of their “America, My Country: American Heroes” series.

Does it seem like something is missing to you?

Thomas Wanted Freedom excerpt says "Jefferson believed people should be free."

This section, entitled “Thomas Wanted Freedom,” reads: “Thomas believed people should be free. People in America were not free. The king of England ruled them. Thomas did not think this was fair. Thomas went to meetings with other men. They wanted to make their own laws.”

"Thomas at Home" section of Thomas Jefferson biography

And “Thomas at Home” tells the story of Monticello: “Thomas’s father died. Thomas was fourteen. The plantation belonged to Thomas now. He wanted to build a house. He drew a plan for the house. Workers built the house. Thomas called the house Monticello. The name means little mountain. Thomas liked working on the house….”

Referring to Jefferson’s slaves only as “workers” strikes me as particularly eggregious.

My friend and her husband contemplated writing a few things in the margins, but ultimately have decided to visit the school Principal and recommend this book be pulled from the library. Granted, it’s clearly intended to be easy to read and understand (the publisher recommends the series for young children, those with learning or physical disabilities, English language learners, and those who lag behind in reading skills) but that doesn’t justify the whitewashing of American history.

The comments they received on Facebook were entertaining as well. “When was this book published,” one person asked. When the response came back “2012,” you could almost HEAR a gasp.

On their web site, the publisher brags, “Our focus on state-specific studies is unique in the market. While other publishers may provide state studies books, they may not fully cover the topics required in that state’s standards, or be written at grade level.” They also point out that their books meet Common Core ELA requirements. I sincerely hope that the state of Georgia has not established educational standards barring mention of slavery–though I wouldn’t be surprised if the Texas State School Board is to thank for this.


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Nixtamalize me

May 26, 2010 History Comments (0) 690

I spent the past couple evenings watching some of the many, many episodes of Good Eats on my DVR. One episode in particular (“Tort(illa) Reform“) was especially thought provoking.  One of the things that endears me to the show is how Alton Brown presents not only recipes but the science and often the anthropology behind foods.  In this case, corn.

The foodstuff in question is actually properly called “maize.”  The name “corn” is applied in Europe to most cereal crops.  In this case, we’re dealing specifically with the starchy, thick-hulled maize used by the Aztecs to make nixtamal, AKA “hominy,” which begets masa which begets all manor of deliciousness.

After Cortez got done pretending to be a god and eradicating the massive Aztec empire, he returned to Europe with lots and lots of gold, but also maize.  Unfortunately for the Europeans, Cortez was too busy killing Aztecs to notice their methods of producing nixtamal.  See, the Aztecs learned thousands of years prior that by soaking corn kernels in an alkaline solution of water and wood ash they could remove the pericarp, or outer hull. Skipping this step leaves the maize nutritionally inefficient, and that’s why many European cultures that adopted maize as a staple food were stricken with pellagra, a niacin deficiency that fanatical “House MD” fans like me will recognize from the second-season episode “Forever,” in which it made a lady attempt to drown, and then successfully smother, her baby.

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Pikapika: The U.S., August 6, and “Terrorism”

August 7, 2007 History, Politics / Religion Comments (4) 518

Brad posted yesterday about the significance of August 6: the fall of the Holy Roman Empire, Jamaican independence, the passage of the Voting Rights Act, Bush ignoring warnings that might have prevented the 9/11 tragedy, and this:

In 1945 the United States, in the biggest act of terrorist violence in history, became the first nation to drop a nuclear weapon on, you know, people when they destroyed Hiroshima, killing tens of thousands and probably over 100,000 people. Go USA!

I just wanted to expound on that a bit more, because I don’t think most Americans really appreciate the deep meaning behind the Hiroshima bomb and the mark it left on the US legacy, nor do they know some of the most important facts.

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