The Mazanec Article: A Disingenuous Hit Piece

The following letter to the editor, written by libertarian activist Elliot Fladen, an occasional blogger for The Colorado Independent, defends a Facebook posting by Pam Mazanec, a state Board of Education member. Mazanec wrote that she wanted high school students taught more about U.S. exceptionalism, including her view that the United States should be lauded for ending slavery “voluntarily.” Mazanec so far has refused to elaborate on her comment to The Independent, but has agreed to an interview Monday.

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]n Thursday, October 2, 2014, The Colorado Independent ran an article entitled “State Board of Ed member: ‘U.S. ended slavery voluntarily’.”   The article focused in on the following comment made by State Board member Pam Mazanec: “[y]es, we practiced slavery. But we also ended it voluntarily, at great sacrifice.”  The article painted this statement as an “outright misrepresentation of history” that was “racially ignorant at best or… racially disingenuous at worst.”

The problem with this article is simple: Mazanec’s statement, while inartfully made, was still accurate when one takes an unbiased look at what Mazanec was trying to say.  The article’s framing of Mazanec as a purported ignoramus of history hinges on the fact that Mazanec stated that the United States gave up slavery “voluntarily.”  However, whether that statement is inaccurate depends on what Mazanec meant by “voluntarily.”  Black’s Law Dictionary defines “Voluntary” as “without compulsion.”  While various states such as Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama were “compelled” to give up Slavery, the United States as a whole most definitely was not.  Neither Great Britain nor any other country “compelled” this nation to fight the Civil War and enact the Thirteenth Amendment to our Constitution.  This Country chose to do so without foreign intervention and as such terming it as “voluntarily” would not be an inaccurate view.

Moreover, that Mazanec in the same quoted sentence specifically stated that the United States ended slavery “at great sacrifice” is nearly conclusive evidence that she did not forget that “[t]he United States engaged in a civil war to end slavery” as the article suggests.  What would be the “great sacrifice” that the United States engaged in to end slavery if not the civil war?  The only reasonable interpretation of Mazanec’s remarks is that the “great sacrifice” she discussed was the Civil War.  And because Mazanec’s “great sacrifice” statement clearly refers to the Civil War, the only reasonable interpretation of her use of “voluntarily” would be that she meant it to be interpreted as “without foreign intervention”.  Thus, the proper reading of Mazanec’s statement is as follows: “we also ended it voluntarily [without foreign intervention], at great sacrifice [by fighting the civil war]”.

The Colorado Independent, in its rush to paint Mazanec as incompetent, failed to even raise this patently obvious interpretation of her statement which would have shown her statement to be historically accurate.  How The Colorado Independent could fail to do this basic task while going through the trouble of getting quotes from multiple individuals seeking to tear Mazanec down becomes an interesting question.  A clue to the possible answer perhaps can be found in the following quote of the article: “[s]he shouldn’t be on the education board”, which is followed by this:

[Mazanec’s] criticism of the new AP U.S. history curriculum comes as the Jefferson County School Board made national and international news for proposing to review the AP instructional material and, as suggested by school board member Julie Williams, with an eye to replace it with a curriculum that avoids encouraging “civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law,” and instead promotes positive aspects of the nation’s history. Students and teachers have walked out in protest.

Mazanec’s Facebook post admonishing the AP and college level history courses that “downplay our noble history and accentuate the negative view” suggests she’s in-line with Williams’s agenda.

In other words, The Colorado Independent’s article seems to be an attempt to create a so-called “conservative war on education” and thereby attempt to tip the 2014 Colorado elections towards Democratic victory.  While politicizing statements is nothing new, one would hope that attempts by The Colorado Independent would at least be done with an honest presentation of any statement they used.  Using Mazanec’s statements, in the manner this article did, was disingenuous and unfair.  As such, The Colorado Independent owes Mazanec an apology.


  1. As a historian I do not think any apology is due to Mazanec. This country ended slavery at the point of a gun and there are still those who think it was our finest hour. The only sacrifice in the normal meaning of sacrifice,was that the Southern corporate system, dependent on slavery, was dismantled for a few years.

    We need to remember that war is seldom voluntary and that, has the South been willing to refrain from expansion of slavery, it might still exist.

  2. I believe the disingenuous argument comes from Mr. Flayden when he suggests Ms. Mazanec was posing the internal struggle to eliminate slavery against some imagined invading country that imposed an end to that institution. Considering how slavery came to an end in other countries, one might just as well assume Ms. Mazanec was observing the United States did not experience an armed rebellion on the part of the enslaved people that forced forced the end of slavery. We simply don’t know because Ms. Mazanec offers little information to provide a context for her comments beyond an opinion they represent a “positive” view of American exceptionalism. We might as well wonder if Ms. Mazanec believes the continuing admiration on the part of many Southerns today for the “heroic” struggle of their ancestors against Northern aggressors should be characterized as a positive or “exceptional” view of history?

    As is often the case in unrecognized projection, it appears Mr. Flayden’s accusation against the Colorado Independent of politicizing this issue to help Democrats tells us much more about his own obvious motives than anything else.

  3. The conservative faction on the Texas State Board of Education took another step on the slavery issue. They wanted to deny that American black people had ever won any human rights by virtue of their own organized actions. Slavery was ended only because the white man ended it for black people. All of the Civil Rights acquired from the late 1940s through the 1960s were examples of white people graciously granting new rights to black people. Upshot: Black people are incapable of doing anything worthwhile for themselves, and any societal achievements black people might claim were really all white achievements.

  4. You have to be kidding me……this guy wants to look up one word in this ignorant woman’s statement, and then tell us what she meant? And then “Politicize” it by saying the paper “Politicized” it first. It seems to me, the paper just took exactly what she said, and criticized it, as it was pure BS. I’ve seen desperation before, but this “Explanation”of what she said takes the cake. And as I’m not from around there, does this woman not have the ability to say what she means all by her lonesome? Does she frequently need people to have to explain what she means??? I believe she knew better, but was desperate to explain her stupidity about our exceptionalism comment. Ask her how the indigenous people, the Mexicans, and if she really wants to do some homework, check out our exceptionalism in South America. God……these tea party people have got to go. Such ignorance in power is Dangerous. And that’s my politicizing of this unneeded subject. Now, (the tp), want to write their own version of American history. Where and when will this end. I hope and pray in Nov 2014.

  5. Some comments by the fascist three may be occasionally be correct.
    Nobody can be wrong 100% of the time – hmmm – or can they?
    Their actions whilst proclaiming openness, fiscal constraint, patriotism and even ability would in some societies be considered boderline delusional. I consider their actions so much against the common good as to be treasonous.
    I must confess to being vaguely disinterested in election of commissioners for education. I voted – yes – for a woman who shared views similar to mine, somebody who had helped her husband steer a moderate course as mayor of Arvada and whom I respected. I just didn’t realize the mayhem that well funded fascists could do in such a short time and how important it was to keep intelligent people at the helm.
    I have witnesses armed removal of democraticaly elected officials. Often funded by misguided American policies, nonsense hysterical wars – Iraq – but it made money for Haliburton ddn’t it?
    But this educational disaster required no miltory might – just deep pockets.
    I hope we have learn’t the depth of depravity such people will extend to us and not have to leave it to children to lead the way – or maybe that is what we have learn’t. Our children are thunderously great and we do have a good future.

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