Why is History Taught, but Rarely if Ever Discussed Honestly and Throughly?

It is said as a way to suggest ignorance or lack of education, “read a book” or “get a lesson in history” etc.. I may be mistaken, but it seems to often that history is taught or instructed, rather than actually discussed openly, honestly and unfiltered. Why is that I ask? Am I correct in my observation that history is more or less used as propaganda, rather than actual critical thinking? To suggest that President John F. Kennedy was a horrible president, or that Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t abide by his own lectures. What would happen if a high school student were to say that President Obama destroyed America? We all have our bias, yet is critical thinking even practiced let alone exercised in public or in the classroom, to an extent that no idea is off limits?

What is true and what is not true, what was once believed that has been disproven as of late? What is the other side of slavery? What is the other side of the suffragettes and their plight? What questions are allowed and which ones will get someone barred from speaking? We hold certain people in a favorable light, whereas others are disparaged, without ever truly looking at history from all sides. What is the benefit of deciding a victor when discussing history and historical figures?

The “based on true events” entertainment industry has rewritten history to the masses, just as the dime novels of gunslingers in the old west. Was the westward expansion a genocide to the natives that inhabited America? What’s the other side of the story when it comes to the Native Americans versus the Americans?

They say that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it, yet the constant parallels of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s is always referred to today with all of the movements afoot. Is this observation true, or is it used to motivate those movements to climb and attempt more and more radicalization? All in the hopes of achieving stardom and recognition? Or are the parallels accurate? Is the history that we are taught mere propaganda? If not, why is questioning the narrative never encouraged or even tolerated? What’s the perspective of the slave owner, or the Nazi? Are these people simply evil or is there more to their aspect and the overall actual story?

Living in America we often forget that people living in communist controlled countries must be part of the communist party to survive. If they are not part of the party, they are declared enemies of the state. It’s easy to sit back and preach independence, it’s another story actually fight for it and deal with the sacrifices that are made. Children and families are used to force compliance and servitude in these states. Defect from North Korea and your entire family that remains, will be detained, tortured, raped and sent to work camps for the rest of their lives, that’s one hell of a motivator to remain in peril.

What is the overachieving benefit to garner support and ultimately win, regardless of the ultimate cost of the present and the future? Regardless of the history that is taught we still bicker and debate one another on not only the accuracy of history, but the outcome and the meaning of yesterday and of today.

The less we actually know of history, the father we move from the truth. What is the truth and what is not? Those who claim to seek the truth often disregard facts that may cause them to admit they are wrong? If we cannot discuss history, what makes us think that we can actually and honestly attempt truth? Moreover, we all individually have our own past. Our own individual pasts, there might be things that we all have done that we remain quite about, since our reputation is on the line. I am guilty of this, without question. However I can still remain critical and I have more questions. Our personal history should not keep us from remaining critical or asking questions, just remember we all are human. How honest are we with each other and how honest are we with our heroes?

I’m simply asking questions, not making assumptions or attempting to cause a ruckus. I don’t care who the winner is, I just want to know and understand the actual factual truth of the matter. The narrative has no place in history.

There are a few fellow bloggers that made me think of this. Please check them out and give their articles that I have linked below a gander.

“Truth Isn’t Truth”

Who We Respect

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7 thoughts on “Why is History Taught, but Rarely if Ever Discussed Honestly and Throughly?

  1. “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” — George Orwell.

    In high school, they taught history as if there was only one version of events. In university, they taught history as if there were dozens of versions. In short, they taught what they called “the historiography of history.” When I was young, it used to irk me no end that they did that — I wanted to know what I imagined was the “true” version of events and be damned with all this talk of different perspectives and biases.

    ROFL! God, but I was naive back then.

    Human nature tends toward conformity. You see that so much in academia today. The majority of major campuses are liberal, and they tend to approve only liberal faculty. On the few campuses controlled by conservatives, the opposite tends to be true. The Chicago School of Economics certainly is not interested in Keynesian grad students.

    The instinct to conform usually means that all but a few people demand that history be agreed upon. They have no taste for diverse or minority opinions. Add to that the human tendency to shirk uncertainty, and what do you get?

    History used to be taught mainly as “kings and battles”. In 1066, at the battle of Hastings, William defeated Harold. If you knew that sort of thing, you knew history. Marx who goofed up quite a bit, was right about one thing: History is more than kings and battles. He was pretty much the first to take a serious look at the common folk.

    I have a somewhat different take on critical thinking. To me, it doesn’t imply “no idea is off limits”, it only implies that no substantiated idea is off limits. The notion the US never landed men on the moon does not strike me as one that needs to be seriously discussed every time some undergrad brings it up. Best to spend class time discussing things that have more substance to them, more evidence for them.

    Very thought-provoking post, as usual. “The less we actually know of history, the father we move from the truth.” That alone should get a prize. I also think your notion that we’re all human and should recognize that in each other deserves three or four prizes.

  2. This post made me stop and think quite a few times. An interesting read.
    To me, history is about “Kings and battles”, like Paul says. That’s what I was taught. Or at least, that is what they attempted to teach me, because I was never a fan of remembering random facts that wouldn’t serve in the future.
    It definitely makes me curious to see what they will talk about “our” times in a century.

    1. bottomlesscoffee007

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I may be a cynic, to a fault perhaps. I just refuse to believe what I am told over and over again. I must know, believe and prove it to myself.

  3. Vandelay Industries

    I often notice a couple errors when people discuss history today.

    The first is that we tend to view (and judge) history through our current lens of moral understanding. We assume that humans have always held the same general values that we do today. Slavery is awful. This is something we all agree on. In the 150,000 to 200,000 year history of modern humans, slavery is also common. Only in the last couple centuries have we reached the point in our history where we finally moved beyond slavery. Now many people want to disregard the views of any influential historical figure solely on the basis that they owned slaves or didn’t do enough to abolish it. America’s founding fathers are criticized for owning slaves and participating in the slave economy. These people levying the criticism seem to think that they would have somehow done things differently than every other person living at that time, Monday morning quarterbacking the past. They appear to think that our age will be the final moral authority in human history. To follow on what floatinggold said above, it will be interesting to see what we are judged as monsters for in a century or two. Abortion, perhaps?

    On the other side of the coin, we overlook the faults of people or systems we like. Communism and socialism are all the rage in some corners of American politics today. They’re also responsible for roughly 100 million deaths in the last century. If that alone isn’t enough to ruin the taste of socialism in someone’s mouth, socialist/communist countries have also enslaved more people in the last century than any other form of government. But hey, socialism just hasn’t been done right yet.

    So in conclusion, slavery is bad when done 200 years ago when done in America, but when done in the last 100 years (even right now in North Korea) by socialist/communist countries its fine to completely ignore it because of all the great things socialism can bring us.

    1. bottomlesscoffee007

      Fantastic comment, I couldn’t agree more to be honest. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

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