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LMTTM: Helen Keller and Woodrow Wilson

Reading Lies My Teacher Told Me

Helen Keller, 1880-1968. We mostly hear about her discovering words when Anne Sullivan spelled 'water' into her hand. But she had a long adult life, what did she do? A lot: radical socialist, Wobbly, suffragist, birth control advocate, helped found the ACLU, pacifist, donated to the NAACP. She came to realize that her success depended on having a family wealthy enough to hire skilled tutors and constant companions for her, and also that blindness affected the lower classes a lot more, through industrial accidents and syphilis. US high school history textbooks don't mention any of that.

Woodrow Wilson exemplified the complexity of the 1900s Democratic party. He signed into law a lot of progressive legislation: antitrust acts, progressive income tax, curtailing child labor, the Federal Reserve. His democracy rhetoric inspired a lot of people. He was also a brutal imperialist who occupied Haiti and Nicaragua, and invaded Mexico, Cuba, and the Soviet Union among others. He opposed women's suffrage before he was for it. He segregated the Navy and replaced blacks with Southern whites in federal offices. He brought the US as close as it's come to a police state (there's a reason the ACLU got founded about the same time). In 1920, Harding ignored his Democratic opponent and campaigned against Wilson's record, and won a crushling landslide: 60% to 34% of the vote. Despised in the 1920s, Wilson only got beatified after WWII; now we name lots of things after him and suggest him as a fifth face for Rushmore.

Textbooks whitewash most of that too, either not mentioning it at all, or spinning it heavily, like saying he ordered troops out of Mexico without mentioning he sent them in the first place.

See the comment count unavailable DW comments at http://mindstalk.dreamwidth.org/365752.html#comments


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 24th, 2013 02:10 am (UTC)
The details of history are usually so different than the summary ... but if they taught the whole thing, I think people might be more interested.
Jun. 25th, 2013 03:33 am (UTC)
I can recommend the latest edition or so of The American Journey (McGraw Hill Textbook). I repeated some US history last spring to bring an old C up to an A, and they really dish the dirt as textbooks go. , Wilson refused to see black delegations, and said things like, "I am going to teach the South American republics to elect good men."
Jun. 28th, 2013 08:22 pm (UTC)
I had no clue about Wilson, aside from a general imperialism....the Soviet Union?? I'll have to check this out! Thanks!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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