Save Our High School History Curriculum–Stop Dedicating an Entire Goddamn Unit to the Gilded Age

September 25, 2014 / by / 244 Comments

The Jefferson County School Board in Denver, Colorado has come under heat recently for their controversial proposal to teach a history curriculum that is revised to bolster patriotic sentiments and faith in capitalism. Many people — myself included — are outraged.

To the Jefferson County School Board,

I write this letter to you as neither a historian nor a scholar. I write this letter to you as an American citizen who cares deeply about the future and education of our nation’s youth. In fact, I write this letter on behalf of all American citizens who want the next generation to be informed on the truths of our nation’s history, however ugly they may be. However, I also pride myself on being reasonable and understanding, so I implore you this: Please, for the love of all that is good, stop forcing high school teachers to dedicate an entire goddamn unit of the class to teaching the Gilded Age.

I understand that there are two sides to this debate, both with some valid arguments. The Gilded Age was important to the future of the United States, as it saw the rise of industry, the proliferation of the railroad, and continued westward expansion. Familiarity with the events of the Gilded Age is essential to grasping some of the issues our country faces today.

But sweet jackhammering Jesus, a whole unit? World War II has one unit dedicated to it. Are you honestly equating a moral crusade against the embodiment of inhumanity to a scant handful of mustachioed megalomaniacs figuring out how to leverage vertical integration? I hope you aren’t. Man, oh man, I really hope you aren’t.

Here’s the issue with the Gilded Age: I could explain it in a tweet. In fact, I will. I will explain the Gilded Age in 140 characters or less.

Look at that, I still have 3 characters left. You know what else had 3 characters? The Yalta Conference, which is a fascinating piece of history worth studying in depth. Not to be confused, of course, with the Gilded Age, which is a steaming shitsicle of garbage history.

Listen, I understand that not all history is interesting. That’s simple physics — I believe it’s Newton’s Third Law that states: “For every piece of interesting history, there is an equal and opposite piece of boring-as-fuck history.”  That’s all good and well. You can’t have your John F. Kennedy without your Warren G. Harding,your Jack Kerouac without your Nathaniel Hawthorne, your Tinker v. Des Moines without your Fletcher v. Peck.

But for fuck’s sake, man. We don’t need our nation’s children beaten over the head with the intricacies of horizontal consolidation any more than we need to pretend the Old West is even 1% as interesting in textbooks as it is in Clint Eastwood films. Seriously, Sergio Leone had something pretty great going on, and there’s no reason you need to come along and ruin it with superfluous details about the origin of the Chisholm Trail. You know what I don’t given even a slim fraction of a fuck about? I’ll give you a hint, it’s two words, it starts with “Ch,” ends with “Trail,” and I don’t know how to pronounce it, because nobody knows how to fucking pronounce it.

Yeah, the Old West was a lot better with Clint Eastwood and John Wayne. Maybe you shouldn’t have gone and fucked it up with all this talk about “vaqueros,” “political correctness,” and “border wars” and things that don’t get this stuck in your head.

I hope I’ve made myself clear. You understand that you are shaping the minds of our future. Do you want them to be bright, positive, optimistic thinkers, or do you want them to be stupid shitsippers who are disengaged with the world at age 16 because they had to read five too many pages about the Great Railroad Strike of 1877?