June 22, 2005

A question of history

A brilliant editorial in the LATimes by Dr. David Gelernter is in part about Senator Dick Durbin's recent idiotic remarks (The Sundries Shack has a great timeline of events), but the take-away message is a plea for better history education in our schools:

Not knowing history is worse than ignorance of math, literature or almost anything else. Ignorance of history is undermining Western society's ability to talk straight and think straight. Parents must attack the problem by teaching their own children the facts. Only fools would rely on the schools.

My son told me about a high school event that (at first) I didn't understand. A girl in his English class praised the Vietnam War-era draft dodgers: "If I'd lived at that time and been drafted," she said, "I would've gone to Canada too." I thought she was merely endorsing the anti-war position. But my son set me straight. This student actually believed that if she had lived at the time, she might have been drafted. She didn't understand that conscription in the United States has always applied to males only. How could she have known? Our schools teach history ideologically. They teach the message, not the truth. They teach history as if males and females have always played equal roles. They are propaganda machines...

To forget your own history is (literally) to forget your identity. By teaching ideology instead of facts, our schools are erasing the nation's collective memory.

Dr. David Gelernteris a well-respected Yale professor (of computer science), author, contributing editor (for The Weekly Standard), columnist, and scientist who has experience in criticizing politicians who don't understand their economics or teachers who view history as something to be revised and reviled. A Republican who proudly defends Western culture - and often wonders aloud why public schools should be allowed to exist - he's a voice that ought to be listened to by eduators and parents.

Regardless, something tells me Durbin's hysterical, ignorant remarks will be latched upon by those with little or no understanding of the historical meanings of the words "Nazi" and "gulag," while Gelernter's reasoned pleas will be ignored. And if the media really did start agreeing that history lessons ought to be improved, my guess is that everything currently wrong with history classes would be blamed on NCLB (all that testing of other subjects leaves no time for history, you know).

Posted by kswygert at June 22, 2005 02:05 PM