The importance of teaching Dred Scott

Published June 8, 2021


The New Yorker quoted Matthew Steilen in its story on teaching the infamous Supreme Court decision known as Dred Scott. Steilen launched a Twitter thread and advocated for editing the case down to a minimalistic page or so to omit text that is “so gratuitously insulting and demeaning.” Steilen doesn’t disagree with principles pointing to a racist decision in Dred Scott, and he has worked to add more content on slavery and the Civil War in his course. But, he told The New Yorker that “George Floyd has changed everything. . . . I wasn’t sure I could muster the moral authority to stand up there and teach this case.” He explained that omitting it entirely would be “a bridge too far,” but he thought it best to assign just “two paragraphs and move on.” 

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