As have many educators, I’ve long wondered about the way we educate young people and the information that we provide to them. Dr. Loewen in his book “Lies My Teacher Told Me” brilliantly points out and discusses the many things in American education that children are taught that are simply untrue and at worst misinformation. As a college professor I always felt that my job in Sociological education was to present the unvarnished truth supported by hard data and certainly my own interpretation, but always inviting the student to investigate the information for him or her self and come to their own conclusion and interpretation. With a great deal of challenges from the religious right in the Southern United States, I was never provided with contradicting data to my interpretation although many tried. I was always confronted with conservative propaganda and religious baloney, no hard statistical evidence contrary to the sociological evidence. Sometimes I found myself defending positions that I found somewhat reprehensible if only to show that one has the right to believe anything they desire, even if contrary to fact and reality as long as they don’t use that point of view to injure others.

This point of view on education for me now is different as I deal with small children and not college students. It is truly wonderful to deal with little ones who are unblemished by the somewhat miserable reality of human society! It also provides one with a great sense of responsibility as to which aspects of reality should be brought into their lives and what they should be subjected to. Most of my experience and knowledge is with reference to the American education system. As “Lies” teaches, the American system is filled with lies and misinformation designed to propagandize American children in the myth of American exceptionalism and to nearly deify the founding fathers and a variety of other figures in American history. They system soft sells or ignores “mistakes” made by the nation such as the annihilation of Native Americans, the role of Columbus, Slavery, various bogus and unfounded wars and the treatment of women, gays and minorities of all kinds . So the question in America as elsewhere is, how much of the truth do we teach children and in what degree at each level. Is it ok to tell kindergateners about George Washington’s cherry tree even though the story is untrue? Should we tell first graders that the forefathers of America ripped innocent people from their homes in Africa and put them in chains and enslaved them and worked them until they died? Do we tell 3rd graders that Lincoln was clinically depressed or that John Kennedy used to sneak beautiful girls into the White House when Jackie was gone?

I think that truth is always the best, but that it should be taught in ways that children can understand and process the information. Certainly we should teach all children that no one is perfect. Human beings are flawed and most of us do the best that we can. A belief in human perfection can only disappoint and cause a lack of faith in the species. So from the earliest we should educate kids in the reality of what it is to be human, to be flawed, imperfect and to make mistakes. They should be told that even grown ups are not perfect and make mistakes too. They should be taught the moral codes that being imperfect and making mistakes isn’t the problem, ignoring reality, denying responsibility and being unwilling to correct one’s actions is a problem! With this basis the information that they are being taught can be processed through a filter of reality. American kids should learn about slavery, but the brutality of that practice needn’t be dropped like a bomb on a kindergartener. They can learn that people behaved very badly; that they hurt one another and were not nice. They could learn as they learn other moral lessons that you wouldn’t want to be treated in a similar way. As kids grow and mature the education then the more unvarnished facts of history and reality can be disclosed. It can be quite a shock to confront reality when one becomes and adult. It can be disconcerting and can shake your faith in everything. It is much better to begin with truth and have that truth fully disclosed and nuanced as your capability to understand becomes more formed. In this way, as an adult you have a good grasp of reality and the processes used to understand and explain that reality.

Steven L. Stoll