California Curriculum Says Goodbye To Problematic 4th Grade Mission Project

Students in California have long completed their paper, sugar-cube, and lego-crafted models of the state's 21 Spanish-era missions as part of the public ed curriculum on California history. The problem, you might already be able to see in this, is that the project offered almost no real value in the way of learning about the state's Spanish past. Building a mission involves a lot of names, listing materials, and cataloguing the daily life of the religious leaders in each settlement of the Spanish occupation. But that negated the horrors of history: it involved no perspectives of Native American people and way of life, and erased almost entirely the involvement of Asians and other non-Indigenous people in the state's past. The stated purpose of the mission project belied its function as a means of whitewashing history and making it falsely appear benevolent and idyllic, a notion of a California where we all lived in white stucco pueblos amid livestock and drought-tolerant flowers and dresses and music, tended to by happy and docile Natives aiming to please. That's not unlike a romanticized notion of Medieval Europe that puts us in castles and drinking pints over banquets, when in reality most of us would have lived Hobbes' "Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" lives. This change is welcome, indeed.