On How History is Taught
History teachers take note: The way history is taught, at least in the United States, is wrong. First of all, I was taught History in the NYC Public School System and that is a problem in and of itself. The American School System would have you believe that American History began with the Plymouth Rock and the landing of the Mayflower, also the “stealing” of Manhattan for a mere 24 dollars. Prior to that nothing is taught. Suggesting of course that there was no relevant history prior to then. Well, what happened to all the dinosaurs???
World History is taught from a uniquely Northern Hemisphere/European perspective, primarily with Western Democracies as its focal point. Again suggesting that modern “civilized” society was a monopoly held by Western Europe. Democracy, we are taught, began with the Greeks; monotheism began with the Egyptians, by some Pharaoh whose name seems to always elude me, perhaps because my brain has been affected by all that NYC smog.
I have often thought that maybe I should teach history. My reasoning goes it will finally be taught correctly. But then, because my brain is affected by the smog, it would be better that I don’t attempt that, but rather stand on the sidelines and simply criticize the way it is taught and then tell history teachers how I think it should be taught.
When I learn about Ancient Greece, for example, I want to know what is happening all over the world at the same time, using Greece as a focal point. I want to know what is happening in Japan, China, Australia, Africa, South America, North America so that I get a more circumspect view of what is happening in the world at large. I’m not suggesting that I be taught every detail about what is going on in the world, but that I get a general sense of how history, culture and societies at large are progressing in relation to each other. Have I forgotten any of the major continents?
The problem with the way history is taught today, according to my NYC smog-affected memory, is that we study one culture, then go back and begin another, and so on without making any substantial connection between them. This method forgets to give a sense of connectedness to what I was saying before about a circumscribed or is it circumcised view of history.
Seriously, history should be taught like current events. Like reading a newspaper of what is going on all over the world at the same time, so a more accurate view of how one civilization is affecting another or at best assimilating each other? Gee, now I feel like Borg.