Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.
==George Orwell, 1984
So many people I know seem to have amnesia about the past. I think this is both sad and dangerous.
I think history is the key to understanding almost everything—how different things were in the past, but how the present is a product of that past. If you have that knowledge, you have a grounding that will help keep you from being swept away by the propaganda of Big Brother.
But if you don’t have an independent knowledge of history, Big Brother can manipulate you into believing almost anything.
The Democracy Now video above is about a controversy between the Jefferson County, Colorado, school board, and various public school teachers, about how history should be taught. It’s an important topic.
The school board says the teaching of history should emphasize citizenship, patriotism, the merits of the free market, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. I personally agree in principle with all of these, but I suspect my interpretation of these principles differs from the school boards.
What is the free market? Do they think this is what the United States has now? Do they advocate respect for all authority, or only legitimate authority? If you respect all authority, what happens to individual rights? Is patriotism loyalty to the government, loyalty to fellow Americans or loyalty to the Constitution?
And most important: Are these open questions or is there one and only one officially true answer?
The school board specifically opposes material that encourages or condones civil disorder, social strife and disregard of the law. What, I wonder, do the members think should be taught about the Sons of Liberty, the Boston Tea Party and the Minute Men?
I think if a nation—any nation—is to exist, its children should be taught to be proud of the good things in their national heritage. But they shouldn’t be shielded from the facts about the bad things. And every nation, like every person, has both good and bad things in its past. If children are only taught the good, they’ll become disillusioned and cynical when they finally learn the bad.