/ politics

What's wrong with history?

I have always been interested in history, and have been blessed with one of the greatest history teachers during my highschool years. The class was taught entirely without any textbooks, he had a handful of points in history he planned to talk about during the year, and he expected the students to take notes for the tests. But there was no specific order, certainly not chronological, and the pre-planned points would only cover maybe half of the year.

He expected us to ask questions about things in history or even current affairs that interested us, and could talk about pretty much whatever we threw at him for up to a couple of classes. And it wasn't just him lecturing us, but he expected questions and actively quizzed us on what we thought or knew about certain events.

Thinking back to those classes, and reading the news reporting on what passes for history classes in most schools these days, I can't help but think there's something wrong with how we are trying to regulate history education. History education should be about teaching the technique of history, not a predetermined set of events. And what's even worse, I think they're starting at the wrong end of history. Not only is what happened ten thousand years ago pretty much irrelevant for us today, we have almost no facts and rely mostly on speculation.

We should teach history by starting yesterday and working our way backwards. It's already hard enough to get the facts about yesterday, and it's only going downhill from there. This is one of the most important things students should learn. I would like the first history class to start with something that happened at school, yesterday. Let each student write down their account in a few sentences, then let each of them read their account aloud.

By doing this, students will find that there are many different viewpoints and each of them remembers things a little bit different. If this is the case for something that happened in their immediate vicinity, only yesterday, you can help them understand that history is not only coloured by who tells it, it is increasingly unreliable when he who writes history is further away from the event in time and/or space.

And why do we always teach political history? Why not make it be about something students care about and can relate to? Cars? Computers? Fashion? Any subject can be studied to learn the technique of history, instead of a random assortment of "facts" that are currently in vogue.

The problem is that history lessons currently are used not for teaching the technique of history, but as a means for some agenda. "History is written by the victors", they teach the kids one version of history, and usually one that shows some kind of positive narrative to support their current status quo, or even by cherry-picking some events to bolster patriotism or nationalism.

That is not history, that's brainwashing.