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breaking news Opinion | Tom Hanks and the History We Need to Learn

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History, like news reporting, should not be written with a heavy bias, but it often is. I don’t want to replace old historical inaccuracies with new ones, and I refuse to swear allegiance to historians, educators, politicians or journalists with axes to grind and social engineering agendas to enact.

Mark Godburn
Norfolk, Conn.

To the Editor:

Teaching children about Tulsa is important, but the history lessons must be placed in the context of the more than 3,000 lynchings that raged across the country during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The press was complicit as it reported on mob violence against Black people, such as graphically occurred in Tulsa, in abjectly biased, inflammatory ways. As journalism historians have chronicled, the press covered lynchings in a matter-of-fact manner that elided their horror, typically presuming Black people were guilty when they were not, while portraying white lynch mobs sympathetically.

We can’t bring back the victims, but we can invest their lives with meaning by teaching children, sensitively and thoughtfully, about the society in which they lived. Teachers can seize on these biased news stories and lynching in general as a pedagogical moment, using them to help students understand the nature of racial prejudice, the ways the press and society transmitted such biases, and the optimistic lesson that knowledge brings insights that help people change. This type of instruction can bring three timeless educational verities to schoolchildren: truth, understanding and compassion.

Richard M. Perloff
The writer is a professor of communication, psychology and political science at Cleveland State University.

To the Editor:

I am an 85-year-old former teacher of American history with a masters in American history, and I did not know about Tulsa! Shame on our teaching and cultural institutions for their failures in this regard. Hopefully we will do better now.

Lee Beckom
Santa Barbara, Calif.

To the Editor:

Bravo to Tom Hanks! As a fourth-generation Oklahoman who now lives in New Mexico, I too did not know about the Tulsa race riots until a few years ago.

In recent weeks the Oklahoma Legislature and Oklahoma’s governor decided that critical race theory should have no place in the curriculums of their students because these children might be made uncomfortable upon learning about the mistreatment of minorities. I am ashamed of many actions taken by Oklahoma political leaders in recent years, but this latest action is one of the most heinous.

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