I had the opportunity to talk with my good friend, Larry, the other day. Larry is up-to-date on his current events and is a history guru.
So, Larry and I were discussing history and the books that students use in their classrooms when Larry made the poignant observation that our interpretation of history is only really as good as the beliefs, biases and values of the authors who commended it to paper. Larry is currently reading a pretty voluminous book on Texas history and he mentioned how he would like to compare that book’s interpretation of Texas history with what the students of public schools are learning.
Now, of course, there will be biases and omissions in each of the two kinds of books, but I think that it makes for an interesting testing of the actual things that are being taught in our schools. Also, I understand that due to time restraints, a textbook will never be as thorough in many cases as a more focused book, targeted to a different audience, will be. I would, however, be interested to see what the choice of focus is on the school books.
History can be completely changed depending on the focus of events and the sympathies that the writer has for the different characters involved (i.e., Texans see the battle for independence as a heroic effort, whereas Mexicans may see the event as something completely different). History can also be changed by choosing to focus on events or characters that were insignificant and presenting them as though they were significant, while demoting significant events and characters to insignificancy. Also, of course, there are outright deceptions and twisting of facts, in addition to blatant omissions or ignorant misinterpretations.
I think that, going off of the same lines, it might be interesting to find an old (i.e., late 19th or early 20th century) history book and compare the facts presented therein with the facts in a modern history book. My hypothesis is that sometime after World War II, as a new generation grew up, our society became more liberal in its thinking (especially in the universities) and history was revised to conform to the beliefs and views of this new generation.