I thought I taught you better than that

This is an open letter to my former GMS students, their families, and the residents of Gloversville. In my 40 years as a teacher of United States history, I endeavored to equip you with the skills you would need to make intelligent and rational decisions. Among these skills were the ability to research and collect information, question the accuracy of sources, and view historical events through multiple perspectives.

We engaged in serious debates which allowed us to take an unvarnished look at the people and events that continue to shape our nation. We began with the words of Thomas Jefferson, “…..all men are created equal,” which set the goal but not the reality of equality. It would take a torturous path of genocide, slavery, Civil War, Constitutional Amendments, Supreme Court decisions, Presidential Executive Orders, discrimination, and civil rights legislation to impede or advance us toward that laudable goal, a goal that we have yet to reach.

I ask you to take a moment and reflect on the concepts and materials that you were exposed to in my classroom. Here are some you might remember.

The movie Three Sovereigns For Sarah (Salem 1692) was used to demonstrate the use of organized religion as a guise for doing evil deeds.

Genocide or the removal of Native Americans was found in the young adult novels “Weasel” by Cynthia De Felice, “Save the Queen of Sheba” by Louise Moreri, “Canyons” by Gary Paulsen, and “Prairie Songs” by Pam Conrad.

Slavery was graphically portrayed in the movie, “Roots,” “Episode One of the Ken Burns Civil War Series,” “Glory,” “Pharaoh’s Army,” “Unchained Memories from the Federal Writer’s Project” slave narratives series, and the book “To Be a Slave” by Julius Lester.

Discrimination and its lasting effects were dramatically portrayed in the movie Long Walk Home.

All of the above concepts were reinforced through the use of carefully researched and documented Power Point presentations. You were given the opportunity to apply your critical thinking skills to this information.

I have one last document for you to analyze. This is the first paragraph from the Application for Citizenship in the Invisible Empire in the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Mississippi (source http://www.famous-trials.com by professor Douglas O Linder)

I the undersigned, a native born, true and loyal citizen of the United States of America, being a white male Gentile person of temperate habits, sound in mind and a believer in the tenets of the Christian religion, the maintenance of White Supremacy and the principles of “pure Americanism” do most respectively apply for membership in the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan through Klarern No……………

I end on this note: In the late sixties I was traveling through Florida when I noticed a billboard. It had a photo of a hooded Klansman and a caption YOU’RE IN KLAN COUNTRY. Gloversville and Fulton County, I ask you, is this something you want repeated?

KERMIT ACKLEY

Scotia

Seventh grade social studies (1968-2008)