Editor,

Let’s not talk about the white privilege, slavery, racism and such. Let’s talk about something more basic. Imagine a situation where you’re only 10 years old and you come home from school one day and find out that your father flew into a fit of rage and killed your mother. My question is — at 10 years old, are you even capable of understanding what just happened and how it’s going to affect the rest of your life? I think that even Bernie Sanders and other liberal and progressive leaders would say that the answer is “no.”

Then why are we trying to pretend that at 10 years old our white students are going to understand what slavery or racism really is? Based on what extensive studies, on what scientific research? Because without understanding all that the woke movement is doing is basically “back to the USSR.”

And the people like me who know — really know — what can hide behind beautiful slogans about freedom and equality, who came to America to escape that kind of hypocrisy are feeling very uncomfortable indeed. But why should anybody listen to us? Why indeed?

Tatiana Lyulkin

Burlingame

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(12) comments

Ray Fowler

Wow, Tatiana... thanks for sharing. What a great topic. It has generated thoughtful and sincere commentary from different perspectives.

HFAB wrote, "Preparing children for the real world is essential." The question is... how do we go about getting them ready to face the real world?

I participate in this forum a lot... probably too much. Even though some very different points of view are expressed in these pages, I don't think anyone posting comments would purposefully discriminate against someone of a different skin color. I could be wrong but I hope not. However, in the real world... there is discrimination... sadly, all kinds.

Remember, the "Blue eyes/Brown eyes" experiment 50+ years ago conducted by an Iowa third grade teacher? It was a ground breaking event that sparked a lot of controversy and introspection. The kids with brown eyes became condescending and treated the blue eyed kids poorly... because the brown eyed kids had been told they were smarter and better. It became real...

So, if young kids are told they are different because of their skin color today and that the color of their skin makes them an oppressor... how might they react? Could there by long term negative effects on their sense of worth?

So, while I am 100% in favor of teaching kids our nation's history... warts and all... the instruction has to be age appropriate. That instruction cannot be skewed in the way the 1619 Project maligns our history. It's got to be real to help prepare our kids for the real world.

When I was a kid, there was nothing in our history lessons about Columbus' mistreatment of indigenous peoples. That should absolutely be corrected and the learning objectives for those revised lessons should be adjusted as students progress through their schooling. And when I was a kid, lessons about the Civil War clearly presented slavery as something that is wrong... something so wrong that the country nearly pulled apart over eliminating it. No doubt those lessons should be revised such that they give a more accurate picture of what happened 160 years ago. Those lessons must also be age appropriate.

For those who believe elementary school kids can handle complex issues with profound societal implications without regard for age appropriate instruction, I would remind them of the Stanford prison experiment. That experiment, like the Blue eyes/Brown eyes experiment, changed behaviors; it changed the behaviors of young adults. Teaching a kid at 10 years of age... or a "kid" at 20 years of age that he or she is an oppressor is just not a good idea.

Thanks again, Tatiana

Tafhdyd

Good afternoon Ray,

I know we are back in the same general decade or so for school. Along with Columbus we also learned how great things were with Father Serra and the missions in California. Do you know if the stories have ever been updated? It seems to me that we still hear the same complaint nowadays about early history. BTW, I was late to the party yesterday but I did leave you a comment on the propaganda thread.

Ray Fowler

Hey, Tafhdyd

I responded on the propaganda thread...

Hi, Tafhdyd

I offered some feedback re: the who is saying what about Jan. 6 on yesterday's thread.

Back to Father Serra... I think this part of California history is getting better. It was certainly not Father Flanagan and Boys Town during the late 1700s in California. Indigenous peoples were forced to work at the missions and they were treated harshly by Spanish authorities. That needs to be part of the current curriculum. Maybe instead of making plaster of paris mini-missions, kids today might construct a village as it might have looked before California was "settled." I believe age appropriate instruction will get better as educators and historians continue to collaborate.

Tafhdyd

Ray,

I will buy that. I made my mission out of sugar cubes glued together dusted with dirt. Teacher said it didn't look old adobe-ish as it should. I saw the other reply and if I get a minute I will drop in another line or two.

Dirk van Ulden

Ray - I am a bit late to the party but please do not equate Father Serra with the Spanish authorities. He was a benevolent Franciscan Father who protected the indigenous population from the occupiers' harshness. Do not ignore the fact that these natives were not very nice to each other either. They marauded, raped and murdered among themselves. The noble savage concept was a myth, their lives were a matter of daily survival.

Ray Fowler

Hi, Dirk

I mentioned Father Serra when I should have referenced the Spanish mission system. But I do stand by my comment, "Indigenous peoples were forced to work at the missions and they were treated harshly by Spanish authorities." But the question remains... where does Father Serra fit under the umbrella of "Spanish authorities"?

Without a doubt, local populations were decimated by diseases introduced by Spanish colonizers and that includes the clergy. Livestock and crops destroyed native plants which made it difficult for tribes to survive. When Indians turned to the missions for help, they were often coerced into providing unpaid labor for the Franciscans. In crowded labor camps, disease would kill many of the Indians who were then replaced by gathering up other Indians outside the mission system. The mission system gobbled up nearly one sixth's of California... a lot of rich and fertile land. The original plan was to return the improved land to the Indians... that did not happen. Tribal members were beaten, separated from their children, and at times executed for resisting their Spanish overlords. Father Serra had to know about these conditions. While no evidence may be found to show Father Serra raised his hand against anyone, did he try to stop those who mistreated California's Indians? Did he try to change the abusive treatment of local inhabitants? That brings me back to my earlier question... where does Father Serra fit under the umbrella of "Spanish authorities"?

BTW... in 1836, the Mexican government, no fans of the Franciscans, stopped the brutal treatment of Indians at the missions. The mission system was already in decline and this change in policy hastened that decline.

Your point about the harsh realities of tribal life is often skipped over by our education system. Tribes fought each other with immense ferocity often for... wait for it... the control of access to hinting and fishing. Enemies were tortured and captives enslaved. Look to the history of the Comanches. They were a warlike tribe that fought against settlers for decades and sought to wipe out neighboring tribes.

edkahl

Thank you for your letter. Neurologist say that children brains haven’t developed to the point where they can apply critical thinking. This is why progressive hope to indoctrinate them at a young age.

There is a reason more people want to immigrate to the US than any other country in the world. Over 80% of the countries in the UN are run by one party authoritarian government which is exactly the path progressives hope to lead us down with them in charge.

craigwiesner

Children, starting at around the age of 7, can apply what is known as "concrete operational" thinking, according to Piaget's Four Stages of development. Which neurologist are you quoting that says children under 10 can not apply critical thinking?

Terence Y

Thank you for your testimony, Ms. Lyulkin. It sounds like you’re more of an American patriot than all these “woke” folks put together. Don’t cave to adult bullies who are not as intelligent as some 10 year olds. Keep writing letters - there are many people listening to you.

craigwiesner

Ms. Lyulkin - If you or someone you are close to is or was that 10 year old, please know that the story is heartbreaking and I pray that that 10 year old got the help needed and has found a beautiful life. As a survivor of early childhood trauma, I know the impact it can have on life later. It took me many years to get the help I needed but I eventually did and am so grateful that there are professionals out there who know how to work with those who have suffered unspeakable pain.

I disagree profoundly with your premise, though, that 10 year olds are not capable of understanding complex issues like slavery and racism. Educators, writers, filmmakers, those who write plays and skits, can and do introduce such topics to people of all ages, in an age-appropriate way. It is critical to teach history to students of all ages, in an age-appropriate way. In an article in Education Week here's how professional educators responded to the question of "why?"

*******

When the nation feels not just divided, but divided in an unprecedented way, studying history serves as a guide. A nation that can see through and place the turbulent present in historical context is better empowered to grasp the present and decide on the best course of action ahead.

Those who work in classrooms and with students grasp this. In a recent survey of educators who were presented with two choices, 78 percent told EdWeek Research Center they believed the primary purpose of teaching history is “to prepare students to be active and informed citizens,” compared with 22 percent who said the primary purpose of teaching history is “to teach analytical, research, and critical thinking skills.” (We should not, of course, label the second group wrong.)

*******

History is the telling of our stories, those who came before us, those who are here with us, those who are gone. It includes telling the stories of people thousands of years ago and yesterday. One of the things, I believe, that makes us proud to be Americans is the incredible diversity of our stories, how we got here, why we came, why we stay. Some of those stories are incredibly painful, some are exhilarating.

My Jewish-American father was at Dachau after it was liberated as an American soldier guarding Nazi war criminals. My husband's father, a Japanese-American man, was interned in a concentration camp in Idaho. 10 year olds can understand why the holocaust and internment were wrong. They can understand that racism exists and was the cause of those two and too many other tragic events in history. They can then strengthen their empathy for "the other" and recognize when some new group, like Asian Americans today, are being scapegoated.

The rise of the Soviet Union and the crimes against humanity committed against people within that structure need to also be taught, of course! And, if we are all well enough educated and literate, we can compare what is happening today in America with what happened before, during and after the rise of the Soviets.

I, for one, am glad that you are here in our amazing melting pot of a country. I want to learn more from your story, your history, to better inform my decision making.

HFAB

Generations of children in the USSR were fed lies about Stalin - truth of everyone's experiences did not exist. Children learned to fear - their neighbors, their government. I grew up knowing about slavery in America because my mother cared enough to tell us the truths about her growing up in Missouri. I saw the beatings and firehoses on our little black and white tv. Mythology is not history. Preparing children for the real world is essential.

craigwiesner

Thank you for that! One of the most powerful moments in my life came as we were driving away from a ruined village in Afghanistan. All was rubble. There had been so much war that for the most part no one could remember who blew up what. I was sitting next to our Afghan driver/guide and asked him how he felt about what he was seeing. "Really angry. For years this went on and I believed everything I was being told but then I escaped to Pakistan where I learned how to read. Then I was able to learn things for myself and saw how much I'd been lied to." We're really lucky to live in a country where, with the right effort, each of us can critically examine what we're being told and figure out for ourselves what is accurate and what is not. Despite all the rhetoric one side or another may throw around, we're literate, we're connected, and we can choose to know facts over fiction. Grateful to have a local paper that allows this kind of discourse!

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