Don’t Mess with History

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The Article

The future belongs to those who understand the past. Without an awareness of how past events affect the present, how will our children make the crucial decisions when it is their turn to lead our society? 

Recently, though, British Columbia revealed that it does not understand this key concept. The Vancouver Sun reported that the Ministry of Education, after being sued by a homosexual couple, gave Peter and Murray Corren key input into the redesign of the K-12 curriculum, ensuring that social studies will include “ [q]ueer history and historical figures, the presence of positive queer role models—past and present—the contributions made by queers to various epochs, societies and civilizations and legal issues relating to…same-sex marriage and adoption.” And the province will tighten the guidelines to ensure that parents cannot opt their children out of these classes.

As far as I’m concerned, history class should teach history. In that vein, my perfect history curriculum would cover these topics: the birth of democracy in Greece; the rise and fall of the Roman empire; Muhammad and the Islamic expansion; the schism between Shi’ite and Sunni; the Crusades; the Ottoman empire and its expansion into Europe; the Reformation; the Enlightenment; explorers; the Declaration of Independence—probably the most important document in history—and the American Revolution; the British North America Act; slavery and how it was ended in the west; World War I and its aftermath; The Russian Revolution and Stalin; FDR’s New Deal; World War II; the Holocaust; the Marshall Plan; the founding of Israel and its subsequent invasion; the Middle East wars; civil wars in Africa;  the Cultural Revolution in China; the Vietnam War; the fall of communism; and September 11. Hands up if you think the schools are doing a good job of this already! If not, they don’t have time to waste on other pursuits.

Homosexuals are not the first group to try to influence curriculum. When I was in university, feminists were critiquing the way history was being taught because women were so scarce. Their solution was to elevate the status of the peasant, so that, for instance, a lowly maid would receive as much attention as Henry VIII. But Henry VIII influenced European politics in major ways. That little maid did not. In God’s eyes and our eyes she is just as worthwhile; but in terms of historical importance, she isn’t. Feminists may not like that, but that’s the truth. And changing the curriculum to study her means taking away time from individuals who did shape our world. If British Columbia’s pupils study obscure transgendered or gay individuals, who will they leave out? Charlemagne? Thomas Jefferson? Marquis de Montcalm?

Part of the philosophy behind this kind of identity politics is that we all need role models exactly the same as we are in order to succeed. If you think about it, though, that’s ludicrous, because by definition each field had a pioneer. Role models can’t hurt, but the idea that our role models must resemble us in every way causes us to see ourselves not as members of one society but as members of different groups. I have several role models: Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill historically; Jane Austen and C.S. Lewis as writers; and Todd Beamer as an everyday joe, especially after I tortured myself watching United 93 on September 11. Interestingly, only one of these individuals shares my kind of genitalia. And yet, I don’t feel like I can’t try to emulate the others just because we wear different kinds of pants.

I think groups push these sorts of agendas because they’re not interested in children learning history as much as they are interested in determining how children think. That’s not teaching; that’s indoctrination. The goal of education in a democratic country should be to give children the tools to be discerning, not to manipulate them into believing certain things about the world. Teach them history, and they’ll have the tools to judge current events. Fail to teach them history, and it’s much easier to get them to believe whatever you want.

As schools move in this direction, they declare that they know more about children than we parents, who give birth to them, raise them, care for them, support them, and love them as long as we live. That’s arrogant and condescending, and I’m amazed that parents are putting up with it.

S. Wray Gregoire
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