Sunday, March 09, 2008

(Re-) Considering Slavery in the U.S.

In light of our discussion on Reconstruction Plans last week, consider a controversial new plan by Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France. In order to pay tribute to the French victims of the Holocaust, Sarkozy has called for a new national curriculum in which each student in French schools is "entrusted with the memory of a child-victim of the Holocaust." Each student would learn the life story of a victim, which advocates say would guarantee that the memories would not be lost and that the nation could better understand its past.

What if the U.S. passed a new law requiring all students to learn the life story of a slave? To what extent would this help our nation heal the wounds of slavery? How feasible would such a plan be? Can you suggest another way in which our country can address its past? What is your view on reparations? Or, do you believe the nation has already comes to terms with its past? (If you hold this last view, what has the country done to address the past-wrongs of slavery?)

18 comments:

carly m said...

I am really suprised that the French students are doing this. I have always thought of France as an anti-semetic country. I think it is a really great thing, seeing as almost all of the people who witnessed the holocaust have passed away.

I think it would be a great project for American students to do the same with slaves in the past, especially in the North Shore. It would provide a great way to escape out of your life and see through somebody else's eyes. Unfortunatly, this would probably be a pretty hard feat, seeing as American freed the slaves so long ago, and there might not have been enough slaves that documented their lives. However, there are some countries in Africa where slavery is still practiced, and it might be useful to learn their stories, if it would be possible.

Samio said...

I don't agree with what Carly said about France being an anti-semetic country. However, I do like the fact that Sarkozy is spreading awareness throughout the French nation. Maybe other countries will follow his lead and continue to better understand what happened during the Holocaust.

I do agree with Carly's point that American students should try to learn as much as they can about slavery and how it impacted individuals. Although not many slavery could read and write, a lot of their life stories were passed down by word of mouth and interviewing people whose ancestors were slaves could be another way to educate ourselves about our nation's history. I always think that we can learn from the past and although it might never heal the wounds of slavery, we might be able to prevent it from happening again.

Agretch said...

I agree with Carly's point that although this would be very beneficial to us, especially on the North Shore, it would be very hard to accomplish, and might not have the same effect here as it would elsewhere. It maybe bring some more awareness to certain places, but could also anger others (mostly the parents and probably in the south). Also, back to one of the questions "Or, do you believe the nation has already come to terns with its past?", no i do not in the least. I think we just set it aside and tried to put it away from the mainstream until it gradually went away. Not much has been done and racism is still around so obviously the problem hasn't been solved.

Chris said...

As far as reperations, etc go, slavery happened a long time ago, and reperations would do more harm than good, as they would take much needed money away from goverment programs, and give it to people who were not themselves slaves, or the children of slaves, or in most cases, the children of children of slaves. Reperations should have been given to those directly out of slavery, and giving them today would be racist, as it would set african-americans aside as a seperate group, instead of ignoring race and working toward a country with one race: American. If america paid reperations to decendents of slaves, then it would only be right to pay reperations the desencents of everybody else that we have wronged, and we really can't afford that. I doubt we can afford meaningfull slavery reperations in the first place, so it is not even worth discussing.
Basically, I feel that America needs to understand slavery, so that it never happens again, but at the same time, not isolate races, and work towards the point where the color of sombodies skin is meaningless.

unfGuido said...

I agree with chris that reparations would be near pointless in helping with understanding/ coming to terms with our past. I also agree that it would separate us as a country a little more and on top of that certain people would get angry that we are giving reparations. As for the law requiring students to learn the life story of a slave would be a good idea for the most part. It would be great to educate everyone on what went on durring slavery, but I have no doubt in my mind that there would be bunches of people against this law and protest it.

Elizabeth L said...

I think this would be a good opportunity to really get a feel for what the slaves had to put up with, but I feel like our school (atleast) has done a good job at allowing us to create our own opinion on slavery and picture through analyzing texts, reading excerpts, watching movies etc... and think that this would just be a nice project to do. I know that another AIS class did a project like this but they got to choose the character they wanted to be in the CIVIL WAR... One of my friends told me she wanted to research a slaves life but it was too hard to find information and write the letters etc. for the project...
i began to think about why it would be soo hard to put yourself in the slaves position versus the slave owner...?

dillon said...

I think that Sarkozy has a great idea here. Educating the future leaders of a country is one of the best ways to help students understand the problem, as well as make certain that a tragedy like the Holocaust does not happen again.
I feel that it would not work out if the U.S. passed a law making all students learn the life of a slave because it would make some people uncomfortable like Gretchko said, maybe southerners or parents. I would suggest that all states form their own laws which force public schools to teach about slavery, at least enough to educate so that it never happens again.

carly m said...

Dillon, I agree with you for the most part, but I don't think the reason to not participate in the program would be because it makes parents uncomfortable. I'm sure there are tons of French parents that might feel uncomfortable with their child learning about the Holocaust, but it doesn't make it any less important.

The Winnetka Greaser said...

A country could address its past by teaching kids more about the lives of slaves, and by educating them to understand how long people have suffered for. It depends, however on the age of the class. You can't force the heavy burden on the suffering life of a slave on a small child. There is still racism, and there are still hate groups, so I really don't think that France, or our nation has really come to terms with its past. One way to realize the cruelties and abuse slaves had to go through would be to give some kind of reparation. It could be something like improving a school, or even a community.

Bolos said...

I like the way the "Greaser" is thinking. It speaks to our theme, "Idealism and Realism".

The question is, if we agree that reparations are a kind of solution, how should we pay for them? A realist asks: "who will fund this?" and how much will the paying party tolerate?

Sara D said...

I agree with what everyone has said about how doing what the French has done in America would be beneficial, especially in a school such as ours where diversity is not that great.
To address Bolos question, I just think, according to a realists' view, its not at all realistic to pay reparations to every slave ancestor living here still. There are so many questions that would have to be answered such as how do we determine which ancestors will actually get money, and as Bolos already addressed how much?

Harlesbarkly said...

I agree with what Chris has mentioned that giving money to "people who were not themselves slaves, or the children of slaves, or in most cases, the children of children of slaves" is outrageous. But i disagree that reparations will do more harm then good.Instead of giving the money directly to the people with slave ancestry we should place all of the money into a large scholarship fund to educate people who would be unable to afford college while they still want to benefit society. Only those who strive to achieve out of the formerly oppressed should be given this gift. Lastly, If we were to give the reparations the money would come from all Americans, they only have to give a quarter a day, to educate 6 million. If we accomplish this goal we would get all of the idea of racial hostility out of the way when it regards reparations.

Lars said...

I don't see the point in requiring all students to learn the life story a one particular slave if we already learn about slavery in general. Also, requiring this would be like Germany requiring all students there to learn the life story of a Holocaust victim, not France. So just as that would make the Germans feel guilty and low, the requiring of all students to learn the life story of a slave would make Americans feel guilty. Personally, I would find it interesting but I do not think it should be required. Americans should learn about slavery and be aware of our history, not dwell on it, but instead move on and make sure it never happens again.

Brandon said...

I agree with "lars" in that reparations for slavery would be much different than the proposed French curriculum, where reparations' purposes are for "payback", while the French curriculum's purpose is for knowledge and understanding. Even though reparations may include a better understanding of slavery, the educating can be done without reparations.

Also I feel that the notion that whites are slave-owning racists is racist in itself.

Zmalkin said...

In class, my group coming from a forgiving point of view actually had this type of component in our plan for reparations. One of our five components was to have kids in school today to each learn about the lives of African-American's who suffered from the evils of slavery.

I believe that this allows the young adults of today to in a sense "address the other side" before forming the most benefitial reparations plan possible, if any at all. As opposed to other reparation ideas that could potentially be very evpensive, this idea does not require as much from a financial standpoint. I beleive that although this is a very idealistic thought, it can be done. Ultimately, this idea would help our nation heal the wounds of slavery a great deal; however, nothing can completely erase the past.

Johnnykins said...

I agree with Zmalk and i think his apraoch could be very affective. I think that educating kids on the horrors of slavery is the most important thing in that its the most affective way to lessen the chances of it ever happening again. If slavery is just forgotten and never tought about, a couple hundred years down the road, there will be no negative beliefs towards the topic and it could possibl re-emerge which would be disastrous.

Jace said...

Oh, well hello dudes.

After reading these enticing comments by several people, specifically my pooyippin Johhnykins, I have been motivated to make a few comments. First of all, poo yip poo yip poo poodi poo yip yip poo yip poo. Second, I believe that Johnnykins is right on target. I think that it is mandatory that students, black, white, or asian, are taught about the horrors of slavery. If they are not educated about slavery, then the previous mentality of inequality towards a race might emerge once again.

helfmank said...

I believe slavery is one of the most improtant issues in American history also. It shows horrors that have been repeated throughout mankind adn should be taught. What is the purpose and meaning behind?