Despite looming threats, history acts as mirror for ourselves

Editorial Board

The long trail of human history has many things upon it: the bridges of innovation, the boulders of civilization and the rich soil of culture.


Naturally, it is also littered with human trash.


The discarded wrappers of racism, the empty bottles of sexism and the used tissues of genocide all contribute to tainting the path. It is natural, for many of us, to want to clean the track off and keep history clean.


We cannot do that.


One might try to claim that we can. Recently, there was a revised portion of the Texas curriculum which had deleted William B. Travis’s letter. While these changes are unlikely to pass, as the preliminary votes showed unanimous rejection of that part of the revision, it is important for us to note the underlying dangers in actions like that.


After all, there is a certain allure to getting rid of the memories of people who do not deserve to be remembered, such as the slave owners.


But we cannot because history is not a trail which can be altered to fit specific ideals or agendas. It is something to be studied, learned from and added to with improvements. Is that not the purpose of history class?


Said purpose brings in the debate of whether history is being taught in the correct manner. It is easy to claim present methods place questionable figures on pedestals, hence the reason people wish to wholly remove them. The simple solution to this problem is to make sure what is taught to students is filtered free of opinions, rather than deleting the content entirely.


The way to a better history curriculum is finding the difference between glorification and education – two terms which seem to be continuously mixed up in today’s society.


Glorification is the product of subjective thinking, the result of applying personal values to a subject and, when said subject supports those values, placing it on a pedestal. In the situation of education, it is applying praising opinions to what should be a blank slate for conclusion and requiring students to accept the taught material without discussion.


Education, in contrast, is objective. It is the display of facts and events in a manner which allows students to decide for themselves who the heroes and villains are in the world. It is laying a basis of facts for children to apply concepts and ideas to, with the end goal of promoting individual thought and development.


Education is teaching students what happened at the Alamo, then allowing students to use their own critical thinking to decide for themselves if those men were heroic or reckless for their actions. Glorification is the current situation in Texas, which requires the teaching of the heroics of the men at the Alamo. Interestingly enough, the deletion of the word “heroic” was a part of the proposed curriculum revision that seems doomed to fail during November voting.


Schools should not remove parts of the past in attempts to be “politically correct,” but instead, provide facts and foster discussion for the students to formulate their own opinions.


Deleting the garbage from history, trying to prevent people from seeing what had happened, would only result in more litter in the future. Without a show of the consequences for specific actions, those actions will just repeat themselves. Calling the litter “parts of one’s heritage” or giving the impression that littering is something to be proud of will only inspire others to do the same and there is no progress to be made.


Educating people about what the litter is and the truth of the effects it has will prevent it from happening again. They will be able to see cause and effect relationships and choose the way they will go about the situation to ensure the future has no more littering, whether that be the implementation of new laws or a change in the general population’s attitude.


Of the three scenarios—deletion, glorification and education—the only one which will lead to a progressive human race is the third.


History itself cannot be changed; nothing we do today will alter that fact. What can be changed, however, is how we use the past to define our future. We can strip away all preconceptions and biases, examine the facts and decide after what we can take away from the event and how that can be applied to our future.


We do not have the power to delete the past, but we have the potential to create our future.