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Thread: "This Country of Ours" by H.E. Marshall racist?

  1. #1
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    There is a very long and heated discussion going on right now on another homeschool board about TOG and its use of H.E. Marshall's "This Country of Ours" as a History spine. It is being argued that this particular book is extremely racist and promotes bigotry and that by association TOG must indoctrinate their students in this way of thinking. I would love to hear a response from Tapestry regarding this book and it's content. Are their certain chapters that are skipped over due to racist content, etc.? I just thought you should have a chance to defend the curriculum and your choice to use this particular book.

  2. #2
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    Let me just add that I do NOT agree with the person who is claiming TOG to be racist and bigots.....I just thought you should be aware of what is being said about your curriculum on other boards if it's particularly defamatory.

  3. #3
    The Glance into Next Week at the end of each week plan does give warnings whenever these type of issues occur in the readings so that you are aware of the problems and can skip the reading, discuss it, and/or assign something else.

    Blessings,
    Susan in La
    Mom to 18yods (ToG graduate), 17yods (R), 15yodd (R), 13yodd (D)
    Redesigned 2

  4. #4
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    Tapestry uses a lot of books that could be argued might indoctrinate students into a variety of views (take a look at the R level literature for instance). The real question is what does Tapestry do with the material in their discussions.

    My guess is that the folks arguing this, haven't used Tapestry and haven't sat down with the Marshall book and the Tapestry teacher's guide and seen what Tapestry does with the material. That's something you can do if you own the curriculum. Look up the material in Marshall and then look up those weeks in the guide.

    Now, it's possible that there are place where you will want let Tapestry know that they could do a better job. I suspect that the writers are indeed human and it's possible they missed some details, but I also trust from three years of use that they have my D level student thinking deeply and with a Christian view about the material.

    One thing I did when some folks on another forum posted about TOG going out of business (not true) was send a private email using the suggestion button to TOG so they could address it. As I recall Dana did a great job on that forum much better than I would have since smoke was coming out of my ears.
    Pat
    "Of two evils, choose neither."
    Charles H. Spurgeon
    http://www.spurgeon.org/mainpage.htm

  5. #5
    Vice President
    Lampstand Press

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    Hi friends,

    Thank you for making us aware that there is some incorrect information being passed around about Tapestry and the Somervilles. (This is precisely the reason why we don’t allow people to post about other curricula here…we don’t want to be the starting place for potentially harmful gossip about others.)

    Please let me begin by assuring you that none of the staff at Lampstand would ever purposefully malign or speak negatively about any particular race. We believe that all people are created uniquely in the eyes of the Creator, and that skin color does not represent the heart or its intentions to serve our Savior. We are saddened to read the unfounded accusations on these posts directed towards Tapestry of Grace and the Somervilles’ characters on the basis of a cursory glance at our book list.

    We do try, within our limited human power, to choose a variety of books that, taken together, give balanced presentations of the facts of history. Neither this book, nor any other, is read alone. In almost all week-plans, we offer at least two resources on a given historical topic: the Core readings and the In Depth ones. These are often meant to balance each other, and the distinction between Core and In Depth is often the number of pages to be read and/or the depth of detail on the given topic, rather than the importance to the overall study. In using “This Country of Ours,” we sought a book that would cover many weeks briefly (and less expensively) so that students would have time for in-depth learning from In Depth resources listed. Additionally, we offer even more titles each week in the Alternates listed on page 5 of each Redesigned week-plan. The variety of books offered, and our constant reiteration that books are easily substituted, demonstrate our commitment to you, the parent, being in full control of your child’s studies.

    We have certainly found that it is near impossible to find history resources that are totally without bias. Because this is true, we take an additional step: each week, we warn (in the Glances found at the end of each week-plan) about potential issues in the next week’s independent reading assignment, and we try to help older students learn to discern through parent/teacher guided discussions (which is one reason it is SO important NOT to skip discussions!).

    The terms "racist" and "bigot" are strong ones. They beg a definition of terms. What, precisely does one mean by "racist"? For instance, we know that Marshall uses the term "savages" for Native Americans. When she wrote, this was an accepted term. It is no longer acceptable today, and we note this usage in our Glances so that moms can instruct their Dialectic-age children (ages 11-14) in this improper use of the term. Is the misuse of a term for a people group racism in itself? Is the fact that our discussion outlines and teacher's notes call attention to this misuse and balance it with other resources and countering points of no account? It would seem to us that strong terms like "racism" and "bigotry" being applied to the Somervilles and Tapestry of Grace by folks who, by their own account, have taken a 15-minute glance at our book list is kind of a quick judgment in itself!

    There are a wide range of opinions and sensitivities on various issues among our customers (some care more about nudes in art books, while others expect this in any study of the period, for instance). We have tried to be sensitive to them all as we make our book lists and write our lesson plans. Again, the Glances play a substantial role in leaving the control of your students’ readings in your hands, where it ultimately belongs. Using these, you can choose your level of comfort with our assigned books, or discard them in favor of substitutes that you make.

    Finally, we do sometimes only use parts of books. If a particular section of a book is particularly offensive, or not helpful at all in its parsing of facts, we simply do not assign those pages. And again, we offer alternative readings each and every week-plan so that if the book’s inclusion of even unassigned pages are offensive, you have suggested alternative readings (with page numbers and library call numbers) at your fingertips.

    We are, of course, only human, and it is always possible that we erred and skipped a needed warning. It's also possible that we need to go back and re-examine "This Country of Ours" in light of a revised definition of "racism." We are able, by God's grace, to amend our booklists easily because of our digital edition delivery system. It is always our goal to glorify our Savior and help busy parents do so, too. To that end, one of our goals, now that we have finished the Redesigned project, is to look back over ALL books and see if we missed something that should have been noted in the Glance, or if better resources than the ones we first chose exist. We appreciate your prayers as we do this because it is only with the prompting of the Holy Spirit that we can do this job in such a way that it will meet the most people’s needs.

    **You might also want to read this previous post about this issue.

    Blessings,
    Dana C. in TN
    Vice President
    Lampstand Press

    "Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew,
    like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.
    I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God!"
    Deut. 32:2-4

  6. #6
    There is no false information being spread about TOG. This program schedules This Country of Ours, a work that every person on "the other" board where the issue has been under discussion agrees includes deeply bigoted and racist elements.

    There are comments made about Mormons, Native Americans and African Americans that shock the human conscience. It is hard to imagine the uproar if a book that made similar comments about conservative Christians were scheduled by a home school curriculum provider.

    An LDS parent expressed her devastating hurt at reading the portrayal of Mormons in TCoO. Those who have not read the chapter on "Buchanan and The Mormans" might wish to do so to consider the appropriateness of its use with children.

    The treatment of Native Americans in TCoO is equally reprehensible. Throughout the work they are refer to as "savages", and it is not simply a matter of "name calling" as the character of "the Red Man" is one of murderous villainy. The savages attack kind and trusting whites and then celebrate the carnage getting drunk on fire-water, and then return to the slaughter.

    So how do you deal with these items in your notes? I'd really like to know.

    I also like to know why you would use a text with deeply bigoted and racist content?

    Bill

  7. #7
    Bill, we are always grateful for folks who bring concerns about our book choices to our attention (though we prefer the biblical model of coming first to us in private and asking us ourselves). Your input regarding "This Country of Ours" is helpful to us, and we are grateful for it. As you might imagine, it's hard work picking affordable, available, interesting reading material for every learning level covering every era of history. Thankfully, our open-ended digital edition format makes it possible for us to substitute new books when we find better resources. Until we do find better alternatives and make them primary resources, we also take the time and trouble to list alternates to the primary resources that we've settled on in our Alternates lists and give parents Glance warning. See details above to answer the question you asked, "How does TOG handle Marshall books?".

    In light of your concerns, I've been reading the reviews of "This Country of Ours" at Amazon.com. They aren't nearly as scathing as your input would suggest. Have you actually read "This Country of Ours," or are you basing your claims on what other people have said? One reviewer says, for example, "Although Ms. Marshall is clearly a product of her time, I found that in many instances she could have chosen sides, but instead she took a fair position." Others note how readable and interesting her books are. I have not yet found a credible, unbiased reviewer that uses the kind of language ("racist," "bigoted") which you have chosen. That makes me question your assessment of H.E. Marshall's book.

    You are spreading misinformation, due to your ignorance of Tapestry of Grace. On another site, you wrote, "What's in TOG beyond this is beyond me, I make no claims otherwise..." If you had a chance to read through the Tapestry discussion scripts, you might be surprised. Although you accuse us of anti-Mormon bigotry, I am personally unaware of ANY major homeschool curriculum that spends more time than we do on issues of racial justice or Mormon history. At the dialectic and rhetoric level, we spend a substantial amount of time discussing--and grieving over--the injustices that Roman Catholics and Native Americans have suffered in the United States.

    Here's another example of misinformation: you say that we recommend Van Loon's "The Story of Mankind." We don't.

    We do include exactly one book by Douglas Wilson--a story about pirates in the Chesapeake Bay in the early 1700s. If you have any specific objections to that book, please let me know--privately, via email scott@tapestryofgrace.com--but please don't accuse us of racism because we include one pirate book!

    On the Well-Trained Mind board, you wrote, "I'm sorry to doubt motives, but I've come to believe that some homeschool publishers use materials like these because they share the anachronistic values in books like these and seek to perpetuate them in children. What alternative conclusion is a person to reach?" Let me address this issue head on.

    I was born in 1958, in a county that was 87% black but had NO registered black voters. My father, a Presbyterian minister, was the only white man in Lowndes County, Alabama who refused to become a member of the "White Citizens Council," and he paid for it. For his constant care of the black Presbyterian church in his town, and for his refusal to join the Council, the KKK burned a cross on our lawn, got my dad fired from his job for being a "nigger-lover," and ran us out of the state. My dad has worked hard for social justice in many forms all of my life. And I am very much his son.

    That's why Tapestry of Grace spends so much time on issues of racial justice. It's a PERSONAL issue for me. You can call me "racist" if you want to--but all you do is prove that you don't know who we are or what you're talking about.

    Scott Somerville

  8. #8
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    Originally posted by Spy Car:
    There is no false information being spread about TOG. This program schedules This Country of Ours, a work that every person on "the other" board where the issue has been under discussion agrees includes deeply bigoted and racist elements.
    Bill
    I would disagree with the portion I have bolded above...I am a member of "that board" and have used TOG for over 5 years.

    I have met Scott & Marcia Sommerville in person and I can assure you that they are NOT racist or bigots.

    Spycar: Please read Mr. Sommerville's reply CAREFULLY...and keep your "hate" to yourself.

    Thank you!
    ~*Amy*~

    "...Instead, I have called you friends...You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit -- fruit that will last." John 15: 15 - 16

  9. #9
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    Just chiming in with ALB -- I've been a member of that "other board" since 1999, and I'm not one of those who agrees with SpyCar on this one. It does grieve me, though, when some folks on that board become so narrow-minded while accusing someone else of that very thing.

  10. #10
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    Originally posted by JanaNC:
    It does grieve me, though, when some folks on that board become so narrow-minded while accusing someone else of that very thing.
    I haven't been a member there very long, but I am saddened by the amount of inflammatory discussions, name-calling, etc.

    I try to "skirt" those discussions, but sometimes find myself "smack dab" in the middle of them...
    ~*Amy*~

    "...Instead, I have called you friends...You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit -- fruit that will last." John 15: 15 - 16

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