At what age should kids start to learn the truth about History?

SuperMatt

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As recommended by @citypix - a thread to discuss the darker parts of American (and/or world) History, and how old kids should be before we bring up different issues.

I think The Story of Ruby Bridges by Ruby Bridges is a good starting point. It’s about the experience of a 6-year-old girl, and the target audience is listed as Kindergarten - 2nd grade.


Is this too early to talk to kids about it? I posted elsewhere about a childhood friend who go beat up in 2nd grade (by 4th graders) and called the N-word. He experienced racism, through physical violence and verbal abuse. Maybe if those 4th-graders had learned about the evils of racism in 2nd grade, they wouldn’t have behaved in such a way in 4th grade.
 

Citysnaps

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Giving this some thought... I think starting with the Ruby Bridges story in grade school would be perfect, as it would be very relatable to other elementary school children of a similar age.
 

Chew Toy McCoy

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Tough question, at what age did their parents start teaching them to be racist or bury their head in the sand? At what age do German kids learn about Hitler (serious question)?
 

tobefirst

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As the parent of a 4-year-old, this is an interesting question, one which I will think about deeply over the next handful of (if not more) years. We haven't really talked to her at all about history, aside from her personal experiences ("Do you remember when we went on vacation with your cousins?"), but we do talk to her about how to act and how to treat people, of course. (Or maybe not "of course"...judging by the actions of numerous kids, I guess it isn't clear that this is universally taught at home.) We won't ever hide the truth, regardless of its ugliness, but the depth of truth also needs to be revealed in layers, like Shrek's onion.
 

ronntaylor

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Open, honest history should start when children enter school. So as early as kindergarten. Teachers and administrators have the educational training, curriculums developed by experienced educators, and I hope, input from involved parents/guardians and community members to work out what's in the best interests of kids. I'm not talking about one loud mouth with an agenda. Or astroturf A-holes like in many instances that we see on TV.

Quite often studies and book lists, etc. are planned for a long time and can be undone in an instant because of political games. I'm surprised that there hasn't been actual book burnings yet. It's all a matter of time with some publicity hound. The example in this thread is just about a two-hour drive from our home in Virginia. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me that some of the folk in our county would welcome a book burning. Some of the GQP crazies down here are rampant racists/evangelical bigots.
 

Chew Toy McCoy

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I heard recently that our education system in the beginning was designed to make us all good little cogs in the machine and not much has changed. Once you realize that it explains a lot about what does and doesn’t get taught in our k -12, and why some people feel college is a hotbed of extreme leftist views. They are getting overloaded with new information they probably should have gotten a lot earlier, but those things don’t help them be a good little obedient cog in the machine and could even prevent them from becoming one.
 

Scepticalscribe

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According to today’s US based Right Wing, never. We have fairy tales all prepared just for you. :oops:

Once, during an international election observation mission in the Balkans, several years ago, a sardonic Dutch colleague described to me how, historically, the alliance between the Catholic Church and some of the Right Wing (Conservative) political parties in the Netherlands represented an exquisitely calibrated division of labour along the following lines: "You keep them poor, and we'll keep them stupid".
 

yaxomoxay

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At what age do German kids learn about Hitler (serious question)?
In Italy, I remember learning about fascism and Mussolini in elementary school, probably 3rd or 4th grade, certainly before middle school.

I also remember vividly that some of our history lessons had our teacher going through the daily newspaper (we had to read the titles, and she read one article in full) and “debate” over it (as much as young kids are able to debate), and if the article had some historical reference she explained to us.
 

SuperMatt

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In Italy, I remember learning about fascism and Mussolini in elementary school, probably 3rd or 4th grade, certainly before middle school.

I also remember vividly that some of our history lessons had our teacher going through the daily newspaper (we had to read the titles, and she read one article in full) and “debate” over it (as much as young kids are able to debate), and if the article had some historical reference she explained to us.
That teacher would be locked up in 2021 Texas.
 

Thomas Veil

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Kids should learn the unadulterated history of this country as soon as they are able to comprehend it. You have to get to them before the right wingers come along and fill their heads full of bullshit.

This is perhaps off topic, but I mentioned elsewhere I've been binge-watching a show with my two 12-year-old grandkids, and I had no idea that it was actually going to turn educational--albeit in a dark kind of way.

For example, early episodes revolved around the Mafia, so for them to fully get it I explained about rival gangs, underbosses, the omertà code, etc. In another episode there were women held in a large cage with men bidding on them, so I ended up explaining what human trafficking is. These are things they probably only had vague ideas about, and yeah, they are some fugly subjects to talk about, but my grandkids are almost teens. Frankly I expected to hear that certain things scared them or that they had nightmares about something, but they are handling it surprisingly well.

So, veering back to the topic: lynchings, slavery and other sordid parts of our history? Let 'em learn it as soon as they can, with age-appropriate details. Let the other side wail about how we are teaching them to hate America. Screw those people. Those who truly love this country the most are the ones who admit to its mistakes and want to make it better, not the ones who cling to postbellum statues and flags.
 
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You can't teach a kid about how stupid racism is *young enough*. GA's segregation or FL's lynchings should be spoken way more about. If learning about it breaks the heart of white kids, just imagine how much tougher it is for black kids to experience racism.
 
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ericwn

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Tough question, at what age did their parents start teaching them to be racist or bury their head in the sand? At what age do German kids learn about Hitler (serious question)?

Kids in Germany often learn relatively early about some of the basics of Nazi Germany, for the simple reason that this particular period of the country’s history is still being discussed and talked about in their society. Our museums are full of it, there are graveyards, concentration camp remains, memories of the destruction and of the rebuilding that one can see in plenty places.
I’m not sure how much the curricula have shifted over the last couple years, but schools pick up WW2 between grades 7 and 9 depending on region with more in-depth exploration in later years.
 
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User.45

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Kids in Germany often learn relatively early about some of the basics of Nazi Germany, for the simple reason that this particular period of the country’s history is still being discussed and talked about in their society. Our museums are full of it, there are graveyards, concentration camp remains, memories of the destruction and of the rebuilding that one can see in plenty places.
I’m not sure how much the curricula have shifted over the last couple years, but schools pick up WW2 between grades 7 and 9 depending on region with more in-depth exploration in later years.
That's the age where boys are the most vulnerable to get indoctrinated with the nazi shit.
 

ericwn

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That's the age where boys are the most vulnerable to get indoctrinated with the nazi shit.

It’s certainly much easier to screw up the mind of a child, no doubt. In the end I think it’s all about moderation but at the same time honesty.
Everyone should have visited one of these camps to see for themselves what horror took place and where racism and nationalism can lead to. You will be a different person afterwards.
At the same time we owe our kids a future where they can think positive, where exploring and knowledge are rewarding and not just horror shows. Dumping the stuff on them that we adults struggle to cope with isn’t always the best approach. Step by step.

This may sound naive but in my opinion the human race won’t evolve much until we learn to leave nationalism behind. We will continue to live through cycles of peace and war, of learning more on the liberal or the conservative sides etc and we might see the same mistakes being repeated over and over again.
 
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