“This is how history is made — or rather, how the hue and cry of the present and near past gets lodged into the long-term cultural memory or else is allowed to quietly fade into an inaudible whisper. Public education has always been a battleground between cultural forces; one reason that Texas’ school-board members find themselves at the very center of the battlefield is, not surprisingly, money.”
“Since Egypt’s 1952 revolution, when a group of army officers overthrew the monarchy, the public education system has been an extension of the government. Textbooks and curriculums offered pro-government narratives, conveniently omitting facts or tweaking the truth. But now, the politicization in the schools has reached new heights, marked by efforts to erase or play down opponents’ contributions to history.”
“For years, fans of the Batman comics have puzzled over a mystery at the heart of the series: why doesn’t Batman just kill his arch-nemesis, the murderous Joker?”
The Ethics and Moral Dilemma of Superheroes
What makes a subject worth learning? Worth teaching? Must there be a profitable end point for those learning? Can subjects have intrinsic value? These are some of the questions surrounding issues around subjects in the Humanities (History, Social Sciences, Human Sciences, etc.).
“The liberal education which seeks to provide students with more than mere professional qualifications appears to be dying a slow and painful death, overseen by a whole cadre of what cultural anthropologist David Graeber calls “bullshit jobs”: bureaucrats hired to manage the transformation of universities from centres of learning to profit centres. As one academic put it to me: “Every dean needs his vice-dean and sub-dean and each of them needs a management team, secretaries, admin staff; all of them only there to make it harder for us to teach, to research, to carry out the most basic functions of our jobs.” The humanities, whose products are necessarily less tangible and effable than their science and engineering peers (and less readily yoked to the needs of the corporate world) have been an easy target for this sprawling new management class.”
If nothing else, the incident may serve as yet another example of why social studies—and history in particular—is such a tricky subject to teach, at least via textbooks and multiple-choice tests. Its topics are inherently subjective, impossible to distill into paragraphs jammed with facts and figures alone. As the historian and sociologist Jim Loewen recently told me, in history class students typically “have to memorize what we might call ‘twigs.’ We’re not teaching the forest—we’re not even teaching the trees,” said Loewen, best known for his 1995 book Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. “We are teaching twig history.”
“Opposition politicians and some students have already been protesting against the move, accusing the government of ‘distorting history'”
“I think also the UK have a very interesting approach. We tend to avoid controversial history in our curriculum, we’re very keen on looking at more distant history and somehow, for some reason the less controversial it becomes.”
An interesting article on a familiar topic but this article delves into the use of language to obfuscate historical truth. Below is a passage from the article about some of the phrasing from a textbook commonly used in Texas.
Families were often broken apart when a family member was sold to another owner.
“Note the use of the passive voice in the verbs ‘were broken apart’ and ‘was sold.’ If the sentence had been written according to the principles of good draftsmanship, it would have looked like this: Slave owners often broke slave families apart by selling a family member to another owner. A bit more powerful, no? Through grammatical manipulation, the textbook authors obscure the role of slave owners in the institution of slavery.”