Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Histories of what cannot be taught

Teaching history. It's not easy, but it's harder in some places than others.

In the state of Texas, the recently passed "Critical Race Theory" bill declares, among other things, that 

a teacher, administrator, or other employee of a state agency, school district, or open-enrollment charter school may not... require or make part of a course [,] inculcation in the concept that

... the advent of slavery in the territory that is now the United States constituted the true founding of the United States; or

... with respect to their relationship to American values, slavery and racism are anything other than deviations from, betrayals of, or failures to live up to the authentic founding principles of the United States, which include liberty and equality;

Meanwhile in Russia, the Supreme Court has ordered the closing and dissolution of International Memorial, one of the country's oldest human rights organizations:

Memorial worked to recover the memory of the millions of innocent people executed, imprisoned or persecuted in the Soviet era.  Formally it has been "liquidated" for failing to mark a number of social media posts with its official status as a "foreign agent". That designation was given in 2016 for receiving funding from abroad.

But in court, the prosecutor labelled Memorial a "public threat", accusing the group of being in the pay of the West to focus attention on Soviet crimes instead of highlighting a "glorious past".

Founded in 1989, Memorial became a symbol of a country opening up to the world - and to itself - as Russia began examining the darkest chapters of its past. Its closure is a stark symbol of how the country has turned back in on itself under President Vladimir Putin, rejecting criticism - even of history - as a hostile act.


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