Editor, The Beacon:

Dear Gov. DeSantis,

For generations, people have longed for the simplicity represented in shows like Father Knows Best and Leave It to Beaver. You might call it “pre-woke culture.” No wonder your plans to resurrect it attract followers. I grew up absorbing such televised images in the 1950s and ’60s.

Even then, simplicity was a myth. Life was far more complicated and imperfect than the shows portrayed. Families were splitting up. Dads and moms worked. Injustice was rampant. For young people, those whitewashed models and other falsehoods fed into a roiling resentment and disillusionment. History reveals pre-woke culture made no one comfortable for long.

Young adults of the ’60s found many examples of a dark underbelly to the country, the people, and the values they’d been encouraged to accept. A major one was the plight of African Americans. As a teenager, I saw the prejudice, divisions and injustice around me. The teachers, textbooks and educational system I had relied on to present truth and help me understand what I saw failed me.

So, I searched for answers myself, teaching myself what we call “Black history.” Black history, like Native American history, Asian American history, and Latin American history, I realized, is American history. It fills in the gaps that pre-woke American history created. It was my history, too, and all children need to learn it. (Don’t presume that because we were not schooled in systemic racism and because we don’t see it, it isn’t there. There’s evidence aplenty.)

Was I disturbed by what I found? Of course. It was horrifying to learn that people who looked like me — and likely some of my ancestors — had so abused people. But the knowledge did not destroy me. I hadn’t enslaved people, confined them in impoverished neighborhoods, bombed homes and churches, and so on. On the other hand, my life was easier and my opportunities greater because I am white. In return, I decided, I needed to work for social justice and harmony: I became a better, more committed citizen. Truth gave me purpose.

Still, like many of my peers, I was disillusioned and angry. Perhaps you’ve heard a ’60s popular refrain, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” Adults had attempted to enclose us in a world padded with white gauze. Thus, they were unreliable sources of truth. Everything was suspect. We felt we had to build the world anew and ended up rejecting some good along with the bad. Some even used violence. Society was in chaos. If we return to that pre-woke approach, we can expect another round of disillusioned, rebellious youth and more social disorder.

Teaching the whole American story in age-appropriate doses is less shocking than leaving youth to discover it alone, all at once. Everyone seems to have a viewpoint on those doses: grocery clerks, accountants, politicians. They were likely raised in educational systems with the same blind spots I experienced. Educators are trained to guide young people through difficult truths. We’re dealing with our children, the nation’s future: Listen to the experts.

Why are we worried that children (read, white children) will be shattered by truth? Why aren’t we grieving the sense of obliteration children of color feel without it? Let’s trust that young people can work through uncomfortable truths. Our kids are more resilient than we give them credit for. We’ve tried avoiding the whole story. It breeds ignorance, anger, disillusionment, and even violence. Problems can’t be solved when we don’t understand them fully. Children deserve the chance to understand. Or do we no longer believe that “the truth shall set [us] free” (John 8:32)?

Gail Radley


— Radley is a member of the Baha’Is of DeLand, a writer, and a retired lecturer in English at Stetson University.


  1. More warped revisionist history by a left-wing college professor who spent her career damaging young impressionable minds with her biased views on our nations history.
    Dearie, our children (and most adults) don’t have to be told to understand all the secrets of the universe in order to live a happy and wholesome life!
    I’m sure you’re one of the elitists who advise parents to deny their children’s enjoyment of Christmas and the Santa Claus myth.
    Get real!

  2. Dear Mr. Roberts,
    My Kentucky-born mother kept me humble by saying, “We are all born naked and ignorant; at least I put clothes on you!” She was reminding me to keep my mind and heart open to learning, in your words, “all the secrets of the universe.” Every child on Earth does “have to be told” their history, the story of their nation, their tribe and their family “in order to live a happy and wholesome life.” Education helps us to find our place in society and understand why it works—and why it doesn’t.

    Many of us learn a lot of our story from what our culture taught as we grew up. I am a son of the South. My family has been in America and serving it since 1635. I grew up immersed in southern culture, venerating Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. My great-grandfather lost an arm serving in the Confederate artillery at Gettysburg; my great-grandmother danced with Gen. Lee, who complimented her on choosing “a good Confederate gentleman” for her husband. An ancestor, Brigadier General Lewis Addison Armistead, resigned his commission in the U.S. Army to serve in the Army of Northern Virginia. I have visited the monument in Gettysburg marking the “high-water mark of the Confederacy.” It stands where he fell leading a brigade in Pickett’s Charge.

    But he had taken a military oath to “bear true faith and allegiance to the United States of America, and to serve them honestly and faithfully against all their enemies,” and he violated it by joining the Confederate army.That’s not “warped revisionist history by a left-wing college professor,” but historical fact. A military oath is sacred. It does not expire, the Oath Keepers movement reminds us, and I gain nothing by glossing it over with gauzy stories about the “lost cause” of southern independence.

    Discovering truth is a radically clarifying experience, as my wife, Gail Radley, observed in her letter, which prompted your comment. As she noted, knowing the truth makes one a better, more informed citizen. And my wife’s letter wasn’t a product of indoctrination in left-wing ideology. It reflected her lived experience and her love of truth and justice.

    My wife is not a left-wing enemy of America, nor am I. I am a Vietnam veteran who figured out after safely returning home that my country had made a tragic mistake.

    More than 85,000 American service people and untold hundreds of thousands of innocent Vietnamese civilians paid with their lives because of U.S involvement in what was their civil war. The U.S. government made terrible, flawed decisions there and lied about them to our people.

    Kidnapping people in Africa to be enslaved on private plantations in America was a terrible betrayal of the ideals of our Declaration of Independence, which asserted that “all men are created equal.” Yet no nation’s history is fully consistent with the nation’s highest ideals.

    History must be constantly examined and reinterpreted as the consequences of earlier actions become available and as our society matures. My seventy-eight years of lived experience have taught me that if studying history leaves you feeling happy and proud, you probably aren’t studying history.

    I love studying history because I want to understand why my beautiful, challenging and beloved country doesn’t live up to its ideals, expressed in our Pledge of Allegiance as “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Did you know, by the way, that the original Pledge was composed in 1892 by an American Christian socialist? That’s history.

    My wife and I believe America can do better.


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