Rethinking Thanksgiving

November 21, 2006 1 min read

The days of quaint school Thanksgiving assemblies featuring pint-sized Pilgrims and Indians breaking bread together may be on the way out. Increasingly, school and teachers are taking a harder look at the traditional Thanksgiving celebrations and turning a critical eye to what might have been left out. San Francisco Teacher Bill Morgan, for example, walks into his 3rd grade classroom and takes away students’ pencils and backpacks, saying he’s “discovered” them. When the kids protest, he uses it as a jumping-off point for a lesson on the complexities of Pilgrim/Indian relationships. Some American Indian organizations are embracing such methods, arguing that even young children should get an accurate idea of American history. But other American Indians disagree. Chuck Narcho, a substitute teacher who belongs to the Maricopa and Tohono O’odham tribes, favors keeping Thanksgiving lessons light. “They can learn the truths when they grow up,” he said. “Caring, sharing and giving—that is what was originally intended.” James Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your High School History Textbook Got Wrong, confirms that the first Thanksgiving was actually a high point in Pilgrim/Indian relations. “Relations were strained, but yet the holiday worked...[But] after that, bad things happened,” he said, referring to a period of intense fighting in the 17th century.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.