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Sat Nov 17, 2012, 08:08 AM

Oliver Stone on the Untold U.S. History from Atomic Age, Vietnam to Obama's Drone War




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Response to Lars77 (Original post)

Sat Nov 17, 2012, 09:22 AM

1. I'm getting bored with all the talk of "untold" and "secret" histories. I do teach all this stuff.

I teach American and World History in high school and we pretty much cover all the things critics of US history say we "leave out". Sorry, America, but we did teach you this stuff. Yall were just too busy texting your boyfriend in the back of the class or talking about the kegger after the big Homecoming Dance to pay attention.

Now get the hell off my lawn.

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Response to Bucky (Reply #1)

Sat Nov 17, 2012, 09:53 AM

4. yeah

are you really teaching the unknown histories? Yeah, I would have like to have known the real story of slavery and the reason(s) for the civil war. I would have liked to have known about the vulture capitalists of the time(carpetbaggers) who destroyed any chance at national reconciliation and instead accounted for many of the reasons for the ensuing racial segregation. I would have liked to have learned about how racist america really was, in my high school days and beyond. That last statement doesn't need expounding on does it. You want a link? I have a friend who is a middle school teacher. He says Vietnam is a footnote with no mention of the dictators we backed to keep that war going at the cost of 50-thousand + plus american lives and a uncounted number of Vietnamese lives. I wonder how history books will deal with Bushmonkey/darth lies and ensuing WARS? I don't even think bin the dead ladin was in Afghanistan when we went in. Please stay bored and I feel sorry for your uninformed students who like I was are in store for a rude awakening in the real world. No schools have never taught this "stuff" and I doubt your students had full disclosure. Because if they did you wouldn't have had your job long. Am I wrong?

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Response to heaven05 (Reply #4)

Sat Nov 17, 2012, 11:49 AM

5. Well a teacher can't go around saying "Bushmonkey" or "Darth"

You can't convey a good lesson if you're teaching out of excessive scorn or pride or fear of reality.

As to your questions.
(1) I teach history, not "unknown histories". There are no "unknown histories"; that's a marketing gimmick. As Harry Truman said, the only "new" history is the stuff you haven't found out yet. The real problem isn't teachers; it's people forgetting the nuances after they graduate OR it's people outside the history profession who are supposed to carry on the work of telling our past from the news and entertainment sectors. They're the ones getting it wrong.

(2) I have no idea what you mean by "the real story of slavery." That's one of those broad-sweeping scorn-based terms that implies history teachers are covering something up. I don't know about other places, but Texas's state curriculum is pretty specific in teaching the personal brutalities of slavery, the impact on family life of the slaves, the corruption of the moral character of slave owners, and the relatively few whites in antebellum "bourbon" society who economically benefitted from the peculiar institution. The curriculum is also pretty specific about presenting the protection of slavery as the central cause of Southern rebellion.

This year I'm teaching world history instead of US and my curriculum will cover slavery around the world, how slavery in the Americas was different from the Indian Ocean slave trade, and the economic imperatives that drove the development of it. No child leaves any 9th, 10th, or 11th grade social studies class without at least having the opportunity to learn what the Triangle Trade was.

I'd take issue with characterizing carpet baggers as vulture capitalists. They certainly didn't play a central role in the failure of national reconciliation after the Civil War. Current research is showing that, despite the glib stereotypes, a large number of northerners who relocated South after the war were genuinely interested in social reform of the cash-crop, anti-industrial mentality of the Southern establishment. Real opposition to Reconstruction came from the Bourbon elites who actively resisted all efforts to enfranchise freedmen--often violently. Racial segregation (actually re-segregation) was the gay marriage of its day: a means for conservative pols to whip up a public panic and gain political power. There won't be time to cover that in world history, but when I taught AP US history it was major component of what we studied in the units on Reconstruction.

(3) How "racist" America really was is another generalization that tells half the story. You need to recognize that it wasn't just Americans who established Jim Crow; it was Americans united under common values who broke Jim Crow. It's one of the major achievements in American history. In my class we look in significant detail in the whys and hows of that.

(4) Yes, I would like a link. The whys and hows and ironies of American involvement in Vietnam is a major subject when we cover the Cold War. If your Middle School teacher friend has a textbook that makes it only a footnote (and I assume you don't mean that literally) then he needs to take it on in his class with other sources. There's plenty out there. But again, it's a complex subject that needs to be taught with an eye toward understanding and empathy, not as a cudgel for working out one's own anger.

Obviously Vietnam, as a topic in a survey course, is going to come last in the year. Some teachers do get rushed. But I'd be surprised if Vietnam was a central part in Middle School history. In Texas, US history is divided between 8th and 11th grade years, with the dividing point coming at Reconstruction. The high school curriculum leaves about a week to cover Vietnam and the protest against it. No student walks out of that without hearing (I can't address "remembering") the numbers 58,000 American dead and over a million Vietnamese civilian deaths.

(5) Bin Laden was in Afghanistan in 2001 for at least a large part of the year. Obviously his whereabouts at any given moment is going to remain unresolved. He seems to have moved to Pakistan before 2004, but kept mostly in the Waziristan area close to the border and may have been shuttling between Pakistan and Afghanistan at least through 2005.

(6) You don't word your personal insults at me very clearly, but you seem to be under a few misapprehensions.

(6a) I am not bored with history. I am bored with people who try to politicize history or who wallow in sanctimonious and fact-free accusations that history books are only telling lies. Mostly this comes from the Right. But every ass has two cheeks apparently.

(6b) My students are not misinformed. Rude awakenings come to people who weren't paying attention in the first place. You can't blame your teacher for that. It's not surprising, however, that teenagers are often disinterested in what went on in the past, what with them thinking about sex once every five seconds (rather than the healthier and more balanced every 12 seconds that I've achieved in my late 40s--moderation and personal discipline is the key to my success).

I give my kids a LOT of information and I make a serious effort to make it engaging, memorable, and relevent to their concerns. I don't know what you mean by "full disclosure." What course can cover everything? When you say "No schools have never taught this 'stuff'," I can't imagine where you heard this information from. I can only imagine that because you don't remember it being covered in your year of US history, you assume that no one "never" taught it to anyone ever. That's called "projection."

A survey course of world history has about 8000 years of human events to cover in a space of 4.5 hours a week for a term of less than 40 weeks. In that time I have to convey a strong and detailed story of the range of human progress and the causes that play into it. I'm not just teaching the few topics that you personally happen to be selectively pissed off about. All a teacher can do in that narrow time frame is to cover a few highlights of a narrow thread of events PLUS encourage their students to develop a curiosity for finding things out on their own.

The good thing about people like Oliver Stone is that they offer venues to re-introduce some of the controversies of the past. But what he's doing is a purely passive form of entertainment. A teacher's job is to get the student to actively engage and interact with the past. A teacher is looking for hooks to have the student activate their own investigative skills. A documentarist has two luxuries a teacher doesn't: passively infotaining people and dealing with an audience pre-disposed to care. Turning your scorn at not knowing a few controversies from history onto your teacher makes about as much sense as being pissed off at your driver's ed teaching for not showing you how to handle an 18-wheeler.

(6c) I certainly don't know what you base your doubts about me as a teaching professional on. My boredom is with the over-used gimmick of hyping secret and untold histories, and then telling histories that have been appearing in books and magazine articles for decades. For instance, anyone who doesn't know that Japan surrendered in 1945 specifically because they wanted to avoid a Soviet invasion simply hasn't been paying attention. If you find that topic interesting, I suggest looking up Racing the Enemy at your local library.

Stating that "before Hiroshima" Japan was "ready to surrender" is a bit of an overreach. Did you know that Japan was politically stalemated over the question of surrender before Nagasaki? They weren't simply petitioning for a cease-fire, which is the impression one gets from that clip. Japan was still actively fighting the war. The two atomic bombings and the Soviet invasion of Manchuria all happened within a week of each other. And yet even after that, there was a substantial argument within the Japanese government to continue fighting. One faction even backed a coup attempt to drag the Emperor into the mountains and fight a valient defense of the homeland after the invasions began. This is the half of the story that Oliver Stone isn't telling (or at least didn't tell while marketing his miniseries to Amy Goodman's audience). But off course he had a lot of ground to cover in a limited amount of time (just like any teacher).

The "full disclosure" about Japan's surrender has to cover a range of facts and not just focus on the ones that make the Americans look bad. For instance, views about the a-bomb, both in Japan and the US, were very different than they are today. There was a cavelier attititude toward civilian casualties on all sides. Unlike the British, Russians, and Germans, Americans generally avoided night-time bombing raids on enemy cities specifically to limit the deaths of civilian population, even though it exposed the flight crews to greater risk. The Japanese were the ones who made Hiroshima and Nagasaki (and other cities) targets by scatter-siting war production about the residential areas of their cities--this was done to avoid concentrating military production in industrial areas. This decision insured that civilians would be killed by enemy attacks. The Japanese were hardly innocent of targeting noncombatants themselves in the war. Look up the Rape of Nanking, look up Bataan, look up Korean comfort woman. Japan was a racist, fascist society. Forcing a full-spectrum society reform in Japan meant preventing future wars that a non-occupying cease-fire would have all but ensured. Atomic-bombing two Japanese cities meant preventing Russia from getting a quarter or a third of Japan to occupy after the war. For that matter, it probably prevented another section of Japan from being occupied by Chinese troops--something that would have insured a whole raff of abuses against the Japanese who happened to live in the Chinese sector.

No serious historian teaches that the bombs ended the war. Even in Texas the official line from is that Truman dropped the bombs in the hopes of ending the war sooner. Then again, no history teacher in America teaches the idea that before Columbus most folks thought the world was flat. And yet students come into my class every year still believing that was the case. Why? Because somebody is telling them that. But it ain't teachers.

(6d) Yes, you're wrong.

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Response to Bucky (Reply #5)

Sat Nov 17, 2012, 03:25 PM

6. of course not

but I can. I have no respect for war monger capitalists. Thank you for your answer and the time it took. I misread your intention in your original OP title. No insult meant, just looking for response. It seems, with teachers such as you kids are much more informed than in my time. 50's-60's. Yes, you are right I have nothing but scorn for a country that could have a slavery system as vicious as Amerika. Obama has gone a long way toward making my outlook brighter, but not the racist reaction to his skin color from some amerikkkans. Glad I'm wrong. But the world is flat, isn't it. thank you again, I did learn something new.

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Response to Bucky (Reply #1)

Sun Nov 18, 2012, 09:44 AM

7. Well, I was taught that we reluctantly dropped the bomb on Japan to end the fanatical Japanese

from fighting individual wars throughout the Pacific.

I was never taught about the Russian invasion of Japan. I did wonder why we would care if crazy fanatical Japanese soldiers hid out in tunnels throughout the pacific islands.

I never heard about Wallace. Damn, Wallace, like Al Gore, was a man who could have made a huge difference for the better of society and the planet. We seem to come to the brink of a beautiful social revolution and then we crush it under the heel of tyranny.

Instead of visionaries like Wallace, we end up with crazy loons like Raygun, Nixon and W. or mediocre people like Carter, Clinton and Obama.

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Response to Lars77 (Original post)

Sat Nov 17, 2012, 09:25 AM

2. The truth (which never makes it to the "accepted" history books)

is so much more interesting and informative than the "official" versions that we are spoon-fed. Now, I have to check Democracy Now's site to get the dates for this very informative mini-series.

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Response to dotymed (Reply #2)

Sat Nov 17, 2012, 09:42 AM

3. Yeah, that's another thing. Teachers are constantly being told *don't* teach from the textbook.

Plus all you punks never bother to read the textbooks anyway. All yall ever remember is the movie or the worksheets I hand out. Why the hell are you still on my lawn?!

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Response to Lars77 (Original post)

Wed Nov 21, 2012, 07:52 AM

8. Oliver Stone Speaks Truth to Power in 12 November, 2012 CNN Interview

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Response to Lars77 (Original post)

Fri Dec 7, 2012, 04:31 PM

9. I'm finally watching it On Demand from Showtime. I wonder what our country would've been like if H

Henry Wallace had been chosen as VP in 1944 instead of Truman.

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