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You won’t believe what American high schools are teaching their students about slavery

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Just eight percent of American high school seniors can identify the cause of the Civil War; less than a third (32 percent) know which amendment abolished slavery in the U.S.; and fewer than half (46 percent) know that the “Middle Passage” refers to the harrowing voyage across the Atlantic undertaken by Africans kidnapped for the slave trade. These are only a few of the more unnerving findings from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project, which concludes that in classrooms across the country, the subject of slavery is as mistaught as it is misunderstood.

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Drawing from online surveys of 1,000 12th-graders and more than 1,700 social studies teachers, along with an exhaustive analysis of the 10 most widely read U.S. history textbooks, the SPLC’s latest report attempts to assess how well the country understands its original sin. In a word, the results are “abysmal.”

“[Students’ misconceptions] extend beyond factual errors to a failure to grasp key concepts underpinning the nature and legacy of slavery,” writes Melinda D. Anderson of the Atlantic. “Fewer than one-quarter (22 percent) of participating high-school seniors knew that ‘protections for slavery were embedded in [America’s] founding documents’—that rather than a ‘peculiar institution‘ of the South, slavery was a constitutionally enshrined right. And fewer than four in 10 students surveyed (39 percent) understood how slavery ‘shaped the fundamental beliefs of Americans about race and whiteness.'”

The teachers fared almost as poorly. Despite 92 percent claiming that they were “comfortable discussing slavery,” most implemented a course of study that could be described as incomplete at best and negligent at worse. Nearly half of the teachers failed to teach their students that protections for slavery were enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, while only a fraction more (54 percent) explored the institution’s legacy on American society today.

What exactly are they teaching? Incredibly, dozens of teachers rely on “simulations,” or role-playing games, which Teaching Tolerance cautions can “do as much harm as good.” This method recently incited outrage in Cerritos, California, when instructors bound their students’ wrists and made them lie on the floor in the dark as part of a slave-ship reenactment.

Meanwhile, the textbooks at their disposal are woefully inadequate, often privileging the stories of abolitionists over the enslaved. The best of these textbooks addressed just 70 percent of the Tolerance Project’s key concepts related to the study of American slavery, while the average score was 46 percent. Similarly, the report finds that, “state content standards are timid and fail to set appropriately high expectations.”

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“Taken together, the study exposes a number of unsettling facts about slavery education in U.S. classrooms,” continues the Atlantic’s Anderson. “Slavery is taught without context, prioritizing ‘feel good’ stories over harsh realities; slavery is taught as an exclusively southern institution, masking the complicity of northern institutions and citizens in America’s slave-based economy; slavery is rarely connected to white supremacy—the ideology that justified its perpetuation; and slavery is seldom connected to the present, drawing the arc from enslavement to Jim Crow, the civil-rights movement, and the persistence of structural racism.”

The Teaching Tolerance project outlines a path forward, urging schools to use original historical documents and integrate slavery into the greater study of U.S. history. Only then can we begin to understand how the “present relates to the past.”

Read the Southern Poverty Law Center’s full report.

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H/T Atlantic


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Donald Trump’s lurch toward fascism is backfiring spectacularly

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Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.

During the 2016 campaign, as Donald Trump railed against "Mexican rapists" and other "criminal aliens," pollsters found that the share of Americans who said that immigrants worked hard and made a positive contribution to our society increased significantly, and noticed a similar decline in the share who said they take citizens' jobs and burden our social safety net. After Trump was elected and began pursuing his Muslim ban, the share of respondents who held a positive view of Islam also increased pretty dramatically. I'm not aware of any polling of the general public about transgender troops serving in the military before Trump decided to discharge them, but Gallup found that 71 percent of respondents opposed his position after he did.

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Judge blocking release of Jeffrey Epstein records has ties to officials linked to Epstein: report

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On Saturday, the Miami Herald reported that a judge who blocked the release of grand jury material in the Jeffrey Epstein child sex abuse case has ties to three officials with a vested interest in the outcome of the lawsuits surrounding the scandal.

"Krista Marx, the Palm Beach chief judge who also heads a panel that polices judicial conduct, has potential conflicts of interest involving three prominent players embroiled in the Epstein sex-trafficking saga: State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who has been sued by the Palm Beach Post to release the grand jury records; Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, whose department’s favored treatment of Epstein while he was in the Palm Beach County jail is part of an ongoing state criminal investigation; and ex-State Attorney Barry Krischer, part of the same investigation in connection with his decision not to prosecute Epstein on child-sex charges," wrote Julie Brown, a reporter who has extensively covered the Epstein case.

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WATCH: Buffalo cops and firefighters cheer officers charged with assault as they leave the courthouse

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According to a report from both CNN and MSNBC, the two Buffalo police officers who were charged with second-degree assault after shoving a 75-year-old anti-police brutality protester to the ground where he sustained head injuries were greeted with applause after they were arraigned on Saturday morning.

MSNBC's Alex Witt noted that both officers were released without having to post bail.

According to ABC News, "Officers Aaron Torglaski and Robert McCabe were charged with second-degree assault during their video arraignments on Saturday and were released on their own recognizance. They both entered no guilty pleas and are expected back in court on July 20."

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