Monday, October 13, 2014

178.3 - Clown Award: Colorado state Board of Education member Pam Mazanec

Clown Award: Colorado state Board of Education member Pam Mazanec

Now for the Clown Award, given as always for meritorious stupidity

You may have heard about the protests by students in Colorado over the attempts of a right-wing school board to water down the new Advanced Placement US History curriculum created by the College Board and turn it into a propaganda forum for a string of right-wing bumper stickers promoting "patriotism," "respect for authority," and the glories of "free enterprise" while discouraging "civil disorder, social strife or disregard for the law." Which makes me wonder how, if they are going to reject strife and disregard for law, they are going to be able to cover the American Revolution, but let's leave that aside.

The students - and the teachers and parents who joined them - have forced the school board to back down at least part way, but the issue remains.

The thing is, the principles laid out for the APUSH course, as it has been called, have really gotten the clown juices flowing.

For one example, Fox News contributor Ben Carson told the audience at the Center for Security Policy's National Security Action Summit last week that the framework has an anti-American bias, one so extreme that, quoting, "I think most people when they finish that course, they'd be ready to go sign up for ISIS."

But the possibility, however remote, that this may have been hyperbole leaves Carson falling short of the standards for the Clown Award, despite the fact that the statement is stupid in either case, hyperbole or not.

So this week the Big Red Nose goes to Pam Mazanec, a member of Colorado's state Board of Education, who jumped into this fray last week by posting on a Facebook page intended to discuss the curriculum the argument that the framework may have been conceived by people with an "agenda" who wanted to "downplay our noble history."

As an example of that "nobility," she said, quoting,
I note our slavery history. Yes, we practiced slavery. But we also ended it voluntarily, at great sacrifice, while the practice continues in many countries still today!  This is part of the argument that America is exceptional.
"Sacrifice?" She can only mean one of two things: Either she was referring to the Civil War, which would seem to undermine the "voluntarily" part of her claim, or she was suggesting that slavery was of such great benefit to us as a people and still would be so that was an act of great nobility and grandeur, an act of "American exceptionalism," to have done away with it at any time for any reason and aren't we so great.

However, this is a partial, incomplete, list of nations that either had ended or at least were in the process of consciously dismantling slavery by the time the US civil war began:

Argentina, Austria, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, England, France, Greece, Haiti, Japan, Mexico, Moldavia, Netherlands, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Prussia, Russia, Scotland, Serbia, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
"Exceptional" seems to have lost some of its luster these days.

We actually didn't ban slavery until the 13th amendment, adopted in December 1865. (No, not the Emancipation Proclamation from 1863: That only applied to states in the Confederacy and there is a serious legal question if Lincoln actually had legal power to issue it.) We only did it after dozens of other nations had either done so or were in the process of doing so and even then it took decades of agitation, four years of bloody war, and a Constitutional amendment, an amendment that Mississippi didn't approve until 1995 and then didn't notify the US archivist of the fact, necessary for formal approval, until 2013.

It's true that slavery still exists in many places even though it is illegal everywhere. Indeed, if you allow a somewhat broader definition of slavery than a matter of being legal property, if you include forced servitude by virtue of debt or by having been lured into a trap through false promises of work, the sex trade, and other such conditions, if slavery can be understood as being trapped and exploited with literally no where to go and little hope of escape, then slavery exists across the world, including, I daresay, the US.

But that's not what Pam Mazanec meant. She meant classic bondage of one person being the legal owner of another, of one being the legal property of the other. And she thinks that our record on this is so noble, so far beyond that of other nations, that it proves we are "exceptional" and our children should be taught to love Big Brother I mean Uncle Sam.

She is wrong. She is an ignorant buffoon. And she is a clown.

Sources cited in links:

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