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Volume 14, Number 1 (2020) The Ethics of Memory: What Does it Mean to Apologize for Historical Wrongs

Special Notice for this Issue

Articles published for this issue of the Journal of Educational Controversy will be going online incrementally rather than waiting for the issue to be completed and subsequently closed.

Readers are invited to return to this issue to read the latest article that has been accepted for publication.

Articles in Response to Controversy

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Allusive, Elusive, or Illusive? An Examination of Apologies for the Atlantic Slave Trade and their Pedagogical Utility
Esther J. Kim, Anthony Brown, Heath Robinson, and Justin Krueger
Vol. 14, Iss. 1


Theme: The Ethics of Memory: What Does it Mean to Apologize for Historical Wrongs

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How Historical Context Matters for Fourth and Fifth Generation Japanese Americans
L. Erika Saito
Vol. 14, Iss. 1


Theme: The Ethics of Memory: What Does it Mean to Apologize for Historical Wrongs

CONTROVERSY ADDRESSED IN THIS ISSUE


To apologize for a wrong committed can imply any number of things: that one has committed a wrong against another, that the wrong was done intentionally, that one committed the wrong with malice, that one is consciously aware of doing the wrong, that one has remorse, that one is seeking to right the wrong, that one feels a sense of guilt over committing the wrong,  and/or that one is seeking redemption and reconciliation.  But what does it mean for a state to apologize for an historical wrong that was committed long before its present members were born, but who may still continue to derive benefits from that wrong? Recently, a university chancellor apologized for his university's role in past racial injustices and acknowledged the “profound injustices of slavery” as he sought to reconcile the past with the present and the future. College protests around confederate statues stir conflicts between arguments over historical injustices and historical heritage.   Historical figures who laid the foundation for the enlightenment principles embedded in the founding documents are found wanting in the ethics of historical memory and identity. And the Supreme Court’s current reconsideration of affirmative action brings the issues back into the legal domain, as courts grapple with how to redress the effects of slavery and Jim Crow on educational opportunity. Alternatively, authors may find that the conceptual framework that embeds our question carries certain assumptions that ignores a framework that would center experiences like the Japanese-American internment camps or the Native American Boarding Schools rather than foregrounding them.  Would placing the experiences of those who have been wronged central to our inquiry change the very way we pose the problem.  How does the very notion of apology even look from the perspective of those who have suffered these wrongs? Words and their meanings have histories and continue through lived experiences that are named and experienced differently.  For instance, racialized and other marginalized communities often refer to ‘wronged’ as historically and generationally traumatic—perhaps a different metaphor that communicates suffering is needed?   In the midst of what is often highly contentious confrontations, this issue of the journal is seeking to bring moral clarification and rigorous discernment to the topic.