Archive for October, 2016

Sanitized History

October 11, 2016 Leave a comment

I have noticed that many homeschoolers have talked about using traditional history book whether they are textbooks or book written years ago. They do not like or approve of the history being pushed to the American public today. There are claims made about modern history stating it is incorrect or wrongly portrays events. This new history demonizes America and fosters a hatred towards certain groups. Are past history books better than the current history being taught?

I recall in my youth learning history through the bland textbooks the schools provided. I also recall the history books in the ill-funded libraries. What made these books and history in general so dull was the simple fact these histories were sanitized. As a youth, President Kennedy was pure and perfect. George Washington’s biggest flaw was the folklore of chopping down a cherry tree. When slavery was presented with Washington, he became a kind and gentle soul who emancipated his slaves, after his death. Much of this history has been called patriotic history. How valid is this history?

Sorry to say homeschoolers that past history books are horrible. These books present an unrealistic past that glosses over the horrors of man, and in some cases outright lies about the past. What African slave was truly happy that they were a slave under the dominion of a kind master? Sorry, but there are plenty of books out there describing the misery these slaves endured. The perception of blacks being slow and unintelligent was a purposeful propaganda begun in the late 19th century to keep down the black population. Even our treatment of the Indians has been sanitized. We allow disease to wipe these people out, and portray most if not all of the horrendous treatment of colonial people to Indians. These past histories perpetuates myths and lies.

A second reason why past history books are flawed is the simple fact they are outdated. History is full of discoveries. I recall growing up while being taught the Norsemen visiting North America was a myth. How wrong we are. We now understand how the Danes migrated to Britain. Through discoveries, we are able to correct history that we got wrong. New discoveries of hidden facts alter the history we know. We have learned much about Jamestown in the last twenty years that any book or article before, say 1990, is likely to be wrong. Archaeology done on battlefields have change how the victors and losers portrayed what happened. The past may be static, but history is ever changing.

Are modern histories correct? The old history books portray a biased viewpoint based on the period. At the end of the 19th and early 20th century, historians would represent Indians in negative terms such as calling them savages. There was a view of white superiority based on how Europe conquered that looked down upon the Chinese, Japanese, and other cultures. These attitude permeate many of these books. If the old possessed this bias then it stands to be that modern history has the same types of attitudes. Yes, modern history is as flawed as ever and grossly over-represents the negatives of people like Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other characters of history. Like their past, modern historians make the characters of history one-dimensional and bland. Slave owners become the cartoonish, evil character we see in movies like Die Hard or the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Columbus is portrayed so one-dimensionally in history, now, that he becomes a mythical evil creature like Jason, Alien, or other unrealistic monsters. The minorities or down trodden become one-dimensional as well as their sufferings they must overcome makes them the comical heroes that, again, we see in bad movies, or they are tragic characters that we are forced to relate to as their humanity is taken away for the effect desired more so than their being.

Sanitization works two ways. One method makes history pure and wholesome while the other side makes history evil and corrupt. Today’s history does have a tendency to portray the worst in people and nations in order to try to balance a mythical problem. Today’s history must accept that people can be good and bad. It cannot focus on one element in order point out what was missed. It must be even keeled.

Modern history is the best option with a very healthy dose of skepticism. When history begins to describe the attributes of the character in a one-dimensional way, then allow skepticism to take over. Humans are flawed characters where they can do acts of bravery, kindness, sympathy, and empathy while often portraying the worst that can be imagined. History is at its best when we do not trim a section we do not like or do not focus on one aspect. If history is too good to be true or too terrible, then doubt its validity.