Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ignorance annoys me.

I've been reading "Lies My History Teacher Told Me" for one of my classes. It's been enjoyable, if somewhat difficult, reading. The latest chapter, however, was downright disturbing. It was all about the environment and how we are ALL GOING TO DIE. He (Loewen) didn't put it quite like that. That was just my overall impression.

What annoys me is that I have no prior reading/knowledge/experience with which to compare his data. I only have biases. Know of Rush Limbaugh? One of my earliest memories is of listening to his talk show in the car, along with other conservative talk-show hosts. I believe it was Rush that called environmentalists "environmentalist wackos" and regularly dismissed their concerns and actions. I can't remember his reasons for doing so.

But you know where I'm coming from now. That's the only background I have in environmental issues. And in thinking about this appalling lack of information, I remembered something else conservatives like to say (well, the ones I remember anyway): colleges are liberal bastions. Me, being me, was puzzled by this. Why would they call colleges that? What data are they basing this on?

It wasn't until I started reading Lies that I began to think more deeply about this conundrum. I think Loewen is spot on when he claims that history textbooks are woefully inadequate. As for the rest of his conclusions? Some of them I can agree with, because I have had prior opportunity to peruse the subject matter. Others I have no idea. It sounds pretty, but of course that is not enough to judge accurately.

Here is what I've come up with so far: Republicans and Democrats agreed to a secret deal. The Republicans would control the public school system and the Democrats would get the colleges. Sound good? Being serious, however, here is my working theory: public school history textbooks, among other subjects, are biased. Students are not made aware of all the moves that have been made by our government and society. They have a skewed view. In college, students come upon a more adequate source of information and as a result rethink what they have been taught in light of new revelations. Better?

Back to my original topic, though: not knowing more about environmental issues annoys me. I know the information is out there, but why wasn't it included in our courses of study? I don't think my mom considered it an issue in the early days, so she didn't look for curriculum that broached the subject (in case you don't know, I was home schooled). Now she recycles, buys organic, and is well-versed in the danger of some modern food creations (Sara Lee pastry, anyone?).

For that matter, who's bright idea was it to let students think Columbus was the first intrepid explorer to grace the America's shores? Did you know that African explorers might have made it to South America? The evidence for that is sketchy, apparently, but that would've been so cool to know. Given my knowledge of once-mighty Egypt, the conquering Arabs, and other major non-European civilizations, the European takeover of civilization (as presented in textbooks) never made sense. I still don't know enough about other civilizations to satisfy my curiosity.

Ignorance is ANNOYING. Have I mentioned that already? I'm going to have to write my kid's history textbook. I don't want them faced with the same woeful lack of information. Actually, writing one would be way too much work. I think I'll just use original sources. What a novel concept. Rather than read what someone else far removed thought of an event, my kids will read what people during the event thought and wrote.

There is simply not enough time in the day to read everything I want to read to find out all I want to know. And I don't have enough energy. My lovely post yesterday about a "culture of learning"? Yeah. I spent most of today on the couch, suffering from an attack of ennui.


scotth said...

The modus operendi for the typical politician or talking head is to start at the conclusion you want and work backwards. Any source of information which does not support the conclusion must be discredited, typically with labels like liberal, whacko, nazi, etc. This will prevent any inconvenient facts from getting in the way of your conclusion, without requiring any facts of your own.

The more inflammatory the label the better. Inflammatory means more attention and more people watching and listening to show and buying books.

Neither side really has a monopoly on this behaviour. There really isn't anything like a conversation going on about the issues that affect the country, just a lot of mud flying around an people yelling for attention.

Wulfa said...

Too true. It always annoyed me when people would skip a person or politician's policies in favor of personal attacks. Especially our Presidents. It was bad form, in my opinion, to make fun of George W. Bush's speaking capabilities. It is equally bad form to label Barack Obama a Muslim with the intent of being derogatory. And so on and so forth.

Joseph "caps" Heart said...

"I think I'll just use original sources. What a novel concept. Rather than read what someone else far removed thought of an event, my kids will read what people during the event thought and wrote."

My Civ classes do this; they set original sources alongside textbooks (for context). In the second semester, students choose between a World Civ section and a Modern Western Civ section. I went for Modern Civ because it seemed more interesting to me.
The first semester of Civ is always Western Civ, though.

Wulfa said...

@Joseph: I prefer that method of learning. So far I've been fortunate to come across professors who are of the same opinion.