History? Let's Put it to a Vote!
It’s funny to write about historical significance.
History is the past, but the significance of it is relative.
I’m sure we can all agree that the Crusades were pretty significant. And the World Wars. And September 11th.
But what about other things, like when the Beatles split up or the Anaheim Angels won the 2002 World Series, or LOST premiered?
Who decides which of those things are significant and which are simply noteworthy?
For the past week or so, I’ve been paying attention to this Texas School Board business. And by “paying attention to” I really mean, “reading the quick blurbs in the news crawl.” There have been big fights over what to teach in history classes down in Texas. Some want the focus to be on minority contributions. Others want to teach about the Christian principles on which our nation was founded.
When I was a kid, I foolishly believed that history was history. It already happened. We know what happened. So why don’t we just teach it like it is?
Apparently, it doesn’t work that way. Instead, we have agenda-based curriculum developed by opinionated legislators that vote on which version of history with which to indoctrinate our youth.
And it turns out, it’s always been that way.
I mean, in my day, Christopher Columbus was a nice guy and Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin.
Then I got to college and was taught that America is an imperialist nation that is responsible for all the evils of the world.
(Never mind the fact…er…myth? rumor? theory? that there was already plenty of imperialism and evil in the world long before anyone had ever heard of the continent on which the US now stands.)
If it were up to me, I’d teach the good right along with the bad. Sure, we’ve made some mistakes in our 200+ year history, but what country hasn’t? And just because some bad has come from those mistakes doesn’t change the fact that this country is still pretty darned awesome.
My eleventh grade teacher had a unique way of teaching us about American history. He used board games and mock trials to help us reach our own conclusions.
We learned about the development of the Constitution by trying to find a way to make the Articles of Confederation work.
When we studied the Industrial Revolution, we had a Monopoly tournament.
(I lost. Big time.)
The New Deal? Well I was pleased to serve as presiding judge over the trial of Franklin D. Roosevelt for exercising authority not granted to him by the Constitution.
(I’m pretty sure he was acquitted, but it was close.)
And a few months later, I defended Harry S Truman for dropping the A-bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
(Also acquitted. While I was proud of my victory, I also learned that I could NEVER succeed as a defense attorney in real life.)
What I loved about the class was that we took what we read in our text book and learned for ourselves how to interpret what we were being taught. The teacher wanted us to think for ourselves, draw our own conclusions, work our own way through history.
(Of course, he frequently lost control of his class and was once suspended for firing a starting pistol indoors. But that’s beside the point.)
What is the point?
Do I even have one?
I don’t know.
I guess all I’m trying to say is that this fight down in Texas, which will undoubtedly lead to similar fights in other States, is silly.
No. I’ll say it. It’s stupid.
Just teach the kids what happened. And the parts that are open to interpretation? How about letting them draw their own conclusions?
Oh, wait. As someone who once got a C on an opinion paper, I’m not sure if thinking is actually allowed in school…Maybe the School Board should vote on that, while they’re at it.