Thursday, April 27, 2006

Let's Teach History Not Fairy Tales

I have been looking for a good American History Book. You know one that actually teaches history and not some sanitized feel good fairy tale. It looks like my search will be getting harder.

California's many ethnic and cultural communities have sought legislation that requires school children to be taught about their "role and contributions" in a positive way and bans instruction that depicts them negatively. So instead of textbooks presenting the full story to today’s students written by fair-minded and authoritative historians, they are getting the politically correct sanitized version. And then we wonder why the students of today seem to have less knowledge of the world then those of my generation; who were actually taught history not some fairy tale concocted by those with enough political pull to get our history changed to suit them.

Frankly I am tired of special interest groups wanting to rewrite history and demonize historical figures. An example is two students who attend the Jeff Davis campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. According to Genesis Be and her brother Israfel Briggs, they are embarrassed to tell people that they go to a school named after Jefferson Davis. First since they were free to go to any college or university if the name of the campus was such a problem for them, they should have gone somewhere else. Secondly their reasons for demonizing President Jefferson Davis shows an appalling lack of historical knowledge.


Jefferson Davis was much more then the first and last President of the Confederacy. He represented Mississippi in Congress from 1845-1846. He resigned his congressional seat in order to serve in the Mexican War. He was the Senator from Mississippi from 1847 to 1851, then again from 1857-1861. He was the Secretary of War in the cabinet of President Franklin Pierce from 1853 to 1857. This was a man who served his country well during times of war and peace, and he certainly deserves the recognition of having a community college located near his last home named after him.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

So instead of textbooks presenting the full story to today’s students written by fair-minded and authoritative historians, they are getting the politically correct sanitized version.

While I'm no fan of selective history, I'm not sure why you think history books have ever been (or would be) written by "fair-minded" people.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I'd like to see any history book that isn't heavily biased in one direction or another. Traditional books were biased towards a narrative favoring white Christians; newer books might be problematically in favor of minorities or special interest groups, but the issue of bias itself isn't new--it's just that the problem is now more apparent than ever before because we're talking about it constantly. It seems to me that the correct answer is to forego history books altogether and rely on primary documents in a variety of languages. (Of course, not having an institutional affiliation makes it next to impossible to afford or procure even pedestrian collections of primary sources, and without training in both historiography and several foreign languages, they can certainly be difficult to teach.)