Monday, October 08, 2007

At work on a holiday

Social studies education in the elementary school I briefly attended in 1984, when we first moved to California, consisted of learning the circumstances of Cristobal's adventure, however vaguely, his discovery of the West Indies, and the names of his ships (the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria).

My mom, champion of the indigenous, thought it was important for me to know that this "discovery" was not necessarily the fortuitous event portrayed by my books, instead suggesting that it was the beginning of a sustained campaign to brutally colonize the native peoples there and rob them of their natural resources.

A lot of conservatives argue that the study of history and civics should proceed from facts. They lament the "revisionist" approach to developing history textbooks, arguing that history becomes too interpretive a practice. But generally speaking, those facts are by and large the ones put forth by the conquerors, not the conquered. Given that the bulk of human history is told through the ebb and flow of conflict, how can "fact" not be colored by the perspective and cultural bias of the author? (Thus: those who win get to tell the story.) And isn't the study of history about exploring the documents, artifacts and institutions of the times to uncover various versions and interpretations of events? Wherefore "facts" in all this?

Facts, schmacts.

Thus, I work today.

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