GOOD

Why Do Schools Still Teach an Oversimplified Thanksgiving Story?

A growing number of teachers are making an effort to teach "a more accurate history" about Thanksgiving.

My acting debut came in an elementary school play that reenacted scenes from the first Thanksgiving. I was assigned to play a Native American, complete with a construction paper feather headband. The story we told on stage is the one that millions of Americans are celebrating today—the Wampanoag people and the Pilgrims sitting down together in unity, giving thanks for a bountiful harvest.


It wasn't until after college, when I picked up Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, that I learned that no one ate cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie on the first Thanksgiving, and that the holiday is steeped in brutality and betrayal. Such conversations could serve as a useful teaching moment and opportunity for discussion for millions of students every year, but the vast majority of schools persist in teaching a simplistic version of Thanksgiving's history.

I asked my two sons, who attend a public elementary school in Los Angeles, what they’ve discussed about about Thanksgiving in school. “Nothing,” my fifth-grader replied, adding that he thinks the school district has “made it against the law” to talk about holidays in schools.

“If you don’t go along with the traditional story, you’re seen as a naysayer who’s spoiling the fun,” says Deborah Menkart, executive director of Teaching for Change. The nonprofit organization (together with Rethinking Schools) runs the Zinn Education Project, an effort to encourage teaching populist history in middle- and high-school classrooms across the country. Menkart says one of the reasons organizers created the project is to “ensure that resources that tell a more accurate perspective of history are easily available to classroom teachers.”

“We’ve all grown up with the traditional narrative with stereotypical images of Native Americans—the teepees and feathered headdresses,” she says. ”If you ask most students they have no idea that Native Americans exist today."

But Menkart says a growing number of teachers are making an effort to teach "a more accurate history" about Thanksgiving. Pablo DePaz, a history teacher at Locke High School in the Watts section of Los Angeles, calls the holiday ThanksTAKEN. He says he actively teaches the Native American perspective on the holiday through reading firsthand accounts “of how Europeans were giving thanks after murdering 700 native men, women, and children" and video clips of modern Native Americans explaining their feelings about Thanksgiving.

Similarly, Kelly Wickham, an assistant principal at Lincoln Magnet School in Springfield, Illinois, says two of her students are members of the Taino tribe. "Their father comes in every year”—he even brings his hawk, she says—“and acts as a resource for us on authenticity." Wickham says Lincoln’s seventh-graders recently conducted an in-depth research project about Native American life and painted scenes to reflect the tribes they studied. The students also prepared a feast of traditional Native American food for each other and their families.

Teachers like Wickham and DePaz aren't trying to take away from celebrating Thanksgiving as a time to reflect on one's blessings and share a meal with family. But schools have a responsibility to teach the true history of holidays—messy though they may be—so students have all the information. “The focus shouldn’t be on these friendly Europeans coming and helping the Indians," Menkart says. "The focus should be on native peoples in the contemporary time.”

Articles
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less
test
Me Too Kit

The creator of the Me Too kit — an at home rape kit that has yet to hit the market — has come under fire as sexual assault advocates argue the kit is dangerous and misleading for women.

The kit is marketed as "the first ever at home kit for commercial use," according to the company's website. "Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice. Every survivor has a story, every survivor has a voice." Customers will soon be able order one of the DIY kits in order to collect evidence "within the confines of the survivor's chosen place of safety" after an assault.

"With MeToo Kit, we are able to collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator's involvement with sexual assault," according to the website.

Keep Reading Show less
Health

Villagers rejoice as they receive the first vaccines ever delivered via drone in the Congo

The area's topography makes transporting medicines a treacherous task.

Photo by Henry Sempangi Senyule

When we discuss barriers to healthcare in the developed world, affordability is commonly the biggest concern. But for some in the developing world, physical distance and topography can be the difference between life and death.

Widjifake, a hard-to-reach village in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a population of 6,500, struggles with having consistent access to healthcare supplies due to the Congo River and its winding tributaries.

It can take up to three hours for vehicles carrying supplies to reach the village.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via Keith Boykin / Twitter

Fox News and President Trump seem like they may be headed for a breakup. "Fox is a lot different than it used to be," Trump told reporters in August after one of the network's polls found him trailing for Democrats in the 2020 election.

"There's something going on at Fox, I'll tell you right now. And I'm not happy with it," he continued.

Some Fox anchors have hit back at the president over his criticisms. "Well, first of all, Mr. President, we don't work for you," Neil Cavuto said on the air. "I don't work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you, just report on you."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics