Monday, March 22, 2010

Life in the Fourth Grade: The indoctrination never ends

Today: Discussion in class on why limits on immigration were historically racist. While there is certainly truth in this assertion, especially when applied to the 1920s legislation, what's at issue here is not a historical argument but the message being given constantly to the kids that any restrictions on immigration today would be racist, the basic idea that countries have no right to restrict immigration or to preserve a national ethos.

That's not the main item, though. Each student was assigned to draw a picture. My son told me that his assignment was to draw something on the "mistreatment of the Chinese."

You should know that given the teacher's constant emphasis on the internment of Japanese by the US during World War Two, he had constantly pointed out that this was not racist since the US did not intern any other Asians and was very pro-Chinese and pro-Filipino. He then talked about how the Japanese government had been far more oppressive than the US, killing millions of Chinese civilians and looking on the Chinese as racially inferior.

I thought: OK he talked so much about it, he was assigned (I only later found out he pulled a slip from the pile) to draw a picture of Japanese soldiers killing Chinese civilians. And I was going to help him research things like the "rape of Nanking," one of the worst such atrocities.

So I said to him: "Ah, you are assigned to draw a picture of the Chinese being oppressed by the Japanese?"

"No," he answered, "of the Chinese being oppressed by the Americans."

When given this assignment, he told the teacher: "I don't believe in this."

She replied, "It isn't a matter of believing in it. These are straight historic facts."

Now of course it is true that, for example, Chinese workers on railroad construction in the late nineteenth century were paid less than American-born workers. There was also at one time a Chinese Exclusion Act. But there are also the stories of Chinese immigrants coming to America, being far better treated than they were at home (by their own ruling class, landlords, and governments not to mention their fellow-Asians from Japan), and doing very well. None of this, of course, will be mentioned.

The point is not to cover up the past problems of American society but to:

--Point out how they were corrected voluntarily.
--The scope a free system gave for organization and efforts by immigrant groups to improve their lot.
--The oppression in their home countries that made people want to immigrate in the first place.
--How others treated people far worse.
--How such immigrants and their children have become the greatest believers in the American dream and patriots precisely because they know what they have gained.

You can add to the list. But these kids will never hear about any of this.

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