Monday, June 6, 2011

History Re-told

Welcome to my first education blog post! Initially I was not sure what to discuss for this post, but have decided to go with this....

Sarah Palin discussing the historical importance of Paul Revere.  Palin's misunderstanding of history is not as disturbing as the fact that like Palin, so many other Americans take history and re-interpret it for the benefit of their own political ideas.  No Governor Palin, Paul Revere did not stand up to the British and tell them that they were not going to take our arms and he did not "ring those bells" -- that would have been counter-productive and most likely a suicide mission.  Paul Revere was a silversmith and he might have made bells, but the signal Palin is referring to is the two lanterns placed in the steeple of the Old North Church ("one if by land, two if by sea") as a warning. Revere rode on horseback from Charlestown to Lexington to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock about the British coming to arrest them, all along the way spreading word to fellow patriots about the advancing Regulars.

Palin is not alone in this need to rewrite history.  Here is Michele Bachmann discussing our founding fathers and slavery.

To say that our founding fathers "worked tirelessly" to eliminate slavery is a gross misstatement of history.  Many of them, including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington, owned slaves.  And John Quincy Adams, although openly opposed to slavery, was not even 9 years old on July 4, 1776.  

American history is not always pretty.  We study history not only to learn about our past, but to learn from our past mistakes.  By rewriting history and glossing over those events for which we may not be so proud, we do a disservice to those who fought to change the status quo and make history.

Currently most Americans have a very poor understanding of American history, and an even worse understanding of world history.  As a history lover and social studies teacher I find this very disturbing.  I think the biggest challenge in the years to come for history teachers will be undoing all the inaccurate history floating around in the media.  Unfortunately, once it's out there in the world wide web, for many it is fact.  I'm sure in the years to come we will hear more about Paul Revere and his bells.

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