Monday, April 02, 2007

Don't know much about history

We understand that certain issues are fairly difficult to talk about. These issues are, naturally, even more difficult to talk about when you're dealing with children, in a classroom environment. Still, when teachers start deciding that certain events from history should no longer be covered, under the guise of trying not to offend, we can't help but raise an eyebrow.

We do more than that when those events are decades, if not centuries, old. But that's exactly what some teachers are doing, as they have chosen to avoid covering the Crusades or the Holocaust during history lessons, not wanting to upset students of specific races or religions.

Let's just pause here for a moment. We can grasp the idea of teachers maybe not wanting to touch on the recent strife in the Middle East. We wouldn't be surprised if most history classes reach their end without much talk of the original Gulf War. Given the previous generation's involvement with it, we didn't hear a lot about Vietnam during our own time in school. But to think of events such as the Holocaust and the Crusades being eliminated because it may offend some students seems a bit insane to us.

Look, nobody likes the messy parts of history. People would rather see the events that showcased the triumph of the human spirit, without having to get themselves embroiled in learning about the times where humanity was shown to be petty, warlike, and destructive. But that doesn't mean that those petty times shouldn't be discussed. After all, they have a saying for those that don't learn history.

But let's, for a moment, assume that the teachers are completely correct in avoiding these topics. Let's think that, by never learning about the events of the Crusades or the Holocaust, we may be actually raising kids who are better adjusted, and less likely to try and attack their neighbor over a perceived slight. True, we would be left with a void in the performing arts, as stories revolving around one or the other event would stop being produced. Luckily for us all, there are plenty of ways to reinterpret the Bible, and you can never have too many "fish out of water" movies. But let's not stop with just these particular ugly moments from history. Let's keep going, and eliminate anything that could leave a bad taste in people's mouths. The Revolutionary War? Could be upsetting to British children. Slavery? Still a hot-button issue. Any season of The Simple Life? Offensive to anyone with a brain.

So really, the choices are clear. Either way sanitize history down, removing any potentially offensive references, thereby being able to plow through all of human history in about two months of class time, or accept that students need to learn sometimes even the messy stuff. Otherwise they'll be doomed to repeat history, and they'll bring the rest of us along for the ride.

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