History Lesson

We had a discussion, my friend and I, about an article saying that it was not more than fair that history books for schools covered mostly prominent men since they were the ones that had had the most impact on the development of the world. Of course, I didn't agree but at the time I felt that my words fell flat to the ground. I'm not used to having to defend something I feel is so obvious, but I realise that I have to become much better at stating my perspective.

What I believe young people should know about history (and thus make up the text book) is a number of things. History is a matter of perspective. No historic description is neutral. The winners write the history. Most history textbook writers focus on your own country (quite naturally) and the areas or cultures closest to you, often disregarding whole continents and cultures. It's not enough to only learn about Sweden, the Nordic countries, Europe and the US.

We need to learn history because it tells us things we need to know today. If we don't learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. This is especially true when it comes to the development in Europe and the US today, where we can see fascism grow.

Many different people and situations have had an impact on the development of the world. To believe that only powerful individuals such as presidents, kings, generals and so on are the ones worthy our attention because of their decisions or actions is too narrow. Many individual from all walks of life have had key roles in making history, but their names have been lost. Also, many significant changes have been rather slow and the result of groups acting over time, rather than just one single person doing one thing at a specific moment.
I also think it is important for people to learn about that women many times have been made invisible throughout history. They have made scientific discoveries that their husbands or co-workers have claimed as their own. They have been managers of companies and estates, but been not allowed to own them. Although perfectly able, women have been stopped from entering many professions. There have been societies where women and men have been more equal than most are today. Even though sometimes their role and impact was acknowledged at the time, a deliberate censorship has erased women from the history books.

Just because it is, doesn't mean it should be. Lady Sarah Ashley in the movie Australia

Everybody is responsible for creating the history of tomorrow. The choices we make, the actions we take, the votes we cast. We are all accountable for both creating our society and the story we tell about it.

This is the way I would go about teaching history. And I would never ever say something like the article mentioned above, because I can't see that such a statement would bring me any closer to us having and using history textbooks that embodies those ideas.

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