IMPORTANT: This is a ranting post. If you get nothing else out of this post, please read “Lies My Teacher Told Me.” We now return to your regularly scheduled post…
As many of you know, I am a total history buff. In college, I specialized in Asian history (mainly China and its neighbors), but I have branched into European history in the last few years. Recently I discovered an excellent book I think all American citizens should be required to read, “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong” by James W. Loewen. I admit that despite my absolute obsession with history, I never paid much attention to American history because I felt I already had a substantial knowledge of it, at least enough to fortify my own opinions on our cultural and social values. Boy was I wrong! Whether your agree with many of the conclusions the book draws or not, it is certainly an eye opener. As a student of Chinese language, culture, and history, and after having lived in Japan for several years, one of my biggest pet peeves was the lack of Japanese acceptance for the atrocities committed during World War II. Their history books have been whitewashed (for lack of a better term) to either minimize, distort, or completely cover up the abominable acts carried out throughout China, Korea, and most of Southeast Asia during the years of Japanese occupation. Yet we are no better than the Japanese when it comes to “ethnocentric cheerleading” vs. presenting all factors and allowing students to draw their own conclusions. And this isn’t just a matter of foreign policy. It has become popular in the years since 9/11 to concentrate on understanding American history vis a vis the Middle East in a desperate attempt to understand where all this hostility comes from, yet we don’t even understand the very basic nature of the development of our country and how this revisionist history we now teach in the classroom has come about. You can’t look back 30 or even 50 years and say, Oh, that’s why this happened. History is far more complex then that, and we are doing ourselves a horrible disservice by continuing this legacy of ambivalence towards understanding our own history.
Books like this can be very difficult to read with an open mind. It is hard to confront the idea that people we’ve been brought up to see as heroes are actually human beings with real faults and detrimental attributes. No historical figure is without fault. Indeed most heroes and idolized historical figures from around the world led very disingenuous lives. Many of my personal historical obsessions (i.e. Cixi, the last Empress of China or Eleanor of Aquitine--Alison Weir wrote a most excellent biography I would highly recommend--for example) were incredibly complex people who did some atrocious things in their lifetimes. This doesn’t make them people to revile, necessarily, but it is important to study the faults of our heroes as well as their attributes and to understand how their personal beliefs and values helped shape our nation and its current values and social viewpoints. Its even more important to start teaching this method of historical analysis at the lowest levels. I think the most important question should be how do we start structuring our children's education to reflect these values. I've got a second grader who's just starting to learn about history, so I'll keep you all posted as to how my attempts to have her get a balanced education turn out! Poor Caitlyn, she's always the guinea pig!
Monday, October 09, 2006
In case you all didn't get my e-mail, we are expecting baby #3! Looks like it will be a May/June baby, so you al have plenty of time to buy me presents ;) I was talking with my girl Susanne this morning and talking about all things wonderful and baby (see post below), and I was thinking how perfect our timing was. Jocelyn is a year older than Christopher and this baby will be less than a year younger, so he'll have two lovely ladies to choose from! ;) (oh, come on, you know I'll never be allowed to have a boy. As my dad always says, god is determined that our confusing last name will die out!) :)
Friday, October 06, 2006
I started having children at a much younger age than my friends and siblings, so I was overjoyed when my sister had her first baby last year. And now my friends are breeding, too! My dear, dear friend Susanne and her lucky husband Greg had their first son, Christopher, on Oct 6 at 6:30am. So, Congratulations J family!! You have many, many wonderful years ahead and may you have the wisdom to reflect on that during your (what seems like many, many years of) sleepless nights. ;)