The subject of history is often looked past until it’s staring you straight in the face, this assignment being one of those times. I don’t know about everyone else, but for myself I have completely accepted what my past and history is and I haven’t given it a whole lot of thought until recently. Yes, there are times where I am caught wondering why I have certain traits and I often catch myself tracing back to my past to figure it out, but that’s usually the extent of it. Thinking about my own family history is incredibly boggling as it is, but if you factor in the history of my city, state, country, world and even the universe…My head starts to spin a bit.
As I started doing a little digging about how other people feel about the concept of history, I found an abundance of quotes on history. This particular one was my favorite among them all:
“…everything has a past. Everything – a person, an object, a word, everything. If you don’t know the past, you can’t understand the present and plan properly for the future.”- Chaim Potok, Davita’s Harp
I couldn’t agree more with this. Though I noted that I don’t often dive into the depths of my history, the more I study the topic, the more I see the vast importance of being educated on the past. I also agree with the statement “history repeats itself”, thus why I think there is a need for history education. This is where I see the most debate however. Who is in charge of deciding what we learn? How much of history is hidden due to our education? One of my favorite questions was asked by Burch and Sutherland; “What does it mean to be human?”. All of these questions stir up questionable debates about history and how it’s portrayed.
Being that I am American, most of my history classes entailed everything about America’s history and very minimal about anything from other countries (unless the United Sates were involved somehow). Our history textbooks have taught me that America has had few mistakes but always triumphs in the end, making our country seem flawless even when it’s truly not. When I lived in Australia, I took an Australian history class. The class I took was taught a lot more open minded about the flaws and mistakes Australia has made along the way. They also had an entire unit on world history, I learned a lot more about the world in that one unit than I did in the mass combination of the history classes I took in school. With that said, I feel like this puts an inevitable strain on communication with people from other countries. Quite a few Australian people I met along the way were open about the fact that they think of America as arrogant and self righteous based mostly on the way we focus on our own history and news. Even minority cultures in the United States; they typically receive education emphasized on America opposed to the places that they come from. I can see why other countries sometimes consider the United States as arrogant, we are obsessed with our own history. Other cultures, mistakes, etc. seem to become “absent history”. In the textbook, the author describes “absent history:
“Absence history, of course, does not mean people didn’t exist. …… One important way this happens is when government forbid access to documents that would give us better insight into the past”.
I feel like this consistently happens around the world but especially in the United States (mostly because I’m most familiar with our history education). As discussed in class today, most history classes consisted of the wars, certain social movements and the political history of the states. Things such as the Korean War and slavery are not touched on in most classes. It’s nearly impossible to understand the way of life for a slave because most of that documentation has been destroyed. Same with Native Americans or the hard ships of immigration into the United States. We are taught the main and mighty points of America’s history with little acknowledgment to our failures. Which is my point in case: who decides what we learn in history? I think integration of other cultures is one major thing the government needs to do for our history education programs. This I believe will truly help mend the hostility between cultures in the United States and help bring different cultures today with more understanding of one another. Everyone’s history is important, not one is greater than another.