The Power of History

Before diving in to discussion, take a moment to think about the knowledge of your educational history. Remind yourself of the history lessons learned through your elementary, high school and for some, college years. In my opinion, it is safe to say that these histories sculpt how we view different cultures and interpret past events while also shaping the way we carry ourselves throughout our daily lives. 

While all history is important, there is much that tends to be left out along the way. In saying this, what determines whose histories and stories get told? 

While pondering this question myself, I came to realize that there may not be, in fact there is not, one single answer to this question. So, I find myself narrowing down some of the driving factors that might play a role in determining what and whose histories get told.

The first is Location. Educational systems in a certain location are sure to teach about the relevant events that effected their own geographical history. I realized this while growing up in two different educational locations. In a small town in Northern Minnesota, I learned the basics of United States History. It wasn’t until my family relocated to Bemidji, Minnesota near the Cass Lake Indian Reservation that I learned about the thick history of Native Americans and African Americans- both of which I found very compelling. I learned quickly the effect that location has on the learning structure of an education. Perhaps this is because cultural diversity (especially Native American) flourishes in the latter location while small town Northern Minnesota is predominantly white. 

The second factor is reputation. I found this to be true when reading a chapter from Kinzer’s book Overthrow This excerpt was extremely compelling and eye opening. Mind you, previous to this reading I had only really been educated about the greatness of American history. Rarely was there any negativity or openness to the wrong doings of the United States. In this excerpt, though, I am reminded that even the United States is guilty as charged in many cases. For a brief overview, Kinzer’s writing was based largely on how family history can bring about power that is tough to be overthrown and easy to gain more and more power. We see this true in President Wilson’s Secretary of State, Dulles. Dulles was born into great family history of success and power and he uses it in a negative way to frame and overthrow the whole Iranian government for little or no reason. The odd thing is, as mentioned earlier, I had no previous knowledge of this MAJOR event in history where the United States was so corrupt and wrong. I was a bit let down by my educational history in that reputation of the United States depicted a skewed viewpoint.

The third factor is fear. I believe there is a bit of fear that comes to mind when the word intercultural or cultural diversity is used. For example, the film Precious Knowledge creates a fabulous portray of cultural education being banished for fear of expressing the importance of Mexican heritage in the United States. In an Arizona school district, failing students were mentored and molded into intelligent young men and women with the introduction of an “Ethnic Studies” course. Here, Mexican, as well as American, students were able to understand the world around them in relation to the history of their culture- a great deal of importance for Mexican people. Yet while these students were becoming more willing to engage and enjoy their education, even bumping up test scores immensely, government officials had a hard time dealing with the emphasis on Mexican heritage in an American school system. Again, fear of cultural diversity had set in and eventually wiped out “Ethnic Studies” courses for teaching against American History. Students were left fighting for the education of their history to be taught and embraced just like that of American history. Since we live in a land that is free and open to so many different cultures around the world, I find it hard to see how history is determined and swayed in such a way. 

While we are influenced by the many different histories in our lives, there must be a way to get the real truths behind these important issues.  In order to do so, one must be able and willing to ask questions, be educated in all areas of history and be open to digging for different viewpoints of history.


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