[Marxism] What kind of history is teached in USA?
d.koechlin at wanadoo.fr
Fri Dec 14 15:36:07 MST 2012
History as taught in classrooms around the world is aimed at glorifying
the current nation state and the current economic system.
What kind of history is being taught is an interesting issue. Having
travelled to quite a few extremely different countries myself, and
having examined various history textbooks, I have a feeling they all
more or less conform to the same model.
A comrade mentions Brazil. I spent 2 years in Macapa, and found that
Brazilian history textbooks were divided into : 1) The Origins : Before
the arrival of European settlers, indigenous people and their numerous
achievements, climatic influences. 2) The arrival of the Spanish and
Portuguese, slavery and the arrival of Black people, the colonial
economy - 3) the birth of a nation : the struggle for independence,
economic and social change (urban growth), the various commodity-driven
cycles : sugar cane, coffee, soya, etc., military dictatorship and 4)
The Modern World : a diverse nation and the challenges of the future.
Colombian, Jamaican, Surinamese and Mexican textbooks I've browsed
certainly follow the same pattern.
US history textbooks are quite similar : 1) Native American history, the
difference between Plains Indians and Woodland Indians, 2) European
immigration, the colonial system, slavery, 3) Birth of a nation : the
struggle for independence, the Constitution, economic and social change,
the various economic cycles, the Civil War, the Great Depression of the
1930s, WWII, the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and 4) Modern Times
: a diverse nation and the challenges of the future.
French history textbooks are thus divided : 1) Prehistoric times,
Neolithisation, the Celts, the Romans, 2) Feudalism and the "Ancient
Régime", the condition of the peasantry, 3) Birth of a Nation : the rise
of the bourgeosie, the Enlightenment, the Age of Revolutions,
Colonialism, the Industrial Age, Three Wars with Germany, The Cold War,
Decolonisation and 4) Modern Times : European integration, a diverse
nation and the challenges of the future.
History textbooks are an expression of a given culture's vision of
itself. The end point being the present world, the periodisation of past
epochs ends up glorifying the present nation state (even though it
points out its failings in the recent past). Like Hegel's vision of
history, what the student is left with at the end of the process is the
current nation state and its institutions, the product of a few
centuries of social and political turmoil.
It is the very format of the middle-school textbook that calls for such
a presentation of history. The 7-13 year old needs a coherent vision of
the past, with a logical dynamic that leads from brutality and strife to
a more perfect civil compact, namely the one in which he/she lives.
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