One Week of Schools: Histories- Today is the Second Week of the U.S. 2018-2019 School Year. For True Education To Be a Bond between Students and Teachers, the Teacher Must Understand The History Themes That Students Are Understanding
By Anya Kamenetz, Founder of A Mindful Parent
In our aging university professors, essayists, journalists, and film-makers, we still have much to learn and teach children, as part of bringing their learning into the present. This article may help you teach it and helps you be a better parent, teacher, or reporter, by offering ways to examine your own environment to turn your past into your present and understand your own motives, and not blindly because others are doing it.
School is for making sense of the lessons of history. We usually confuse education with social transformation. Once you have a good sense of history, you can be more attentive to the present. You’ll be less cynical and more inclined to pursue the question “why?” rather than “what?”
Throughout human history, our myths helped us make sense of the unknown. We believed that stories like Noah, Cleopatra, Herodotus, Plato, Id, and Chaucer helped us to understand how we might live in the future. We use stories to teach children we are more similar than different. And we use stories to enable adults to understand themselves and each other. If we don’t do this, schools are just factories that help to perpetuate prejudices that won’t go away, unlike science (we know what science is) and medicine (we are more similar than different, except for our religious commitment).
Let’s look at the literal meaning of many of the stories about Columbus, Amadala, and other historical figures.
“Columbus” and “Columbus Day” are different things, but both have the same basic meaning. “Columbus” means to go somewhere, to make a discovery, to meet new people, to meet a challenge, to come up with new ideas. “Columbus Day” means “another Columbus.” How can this possibly make sense of a story of Columbus going into China? Why would the story of one great voyage be worth remembering?
Nobody really made any more sense of archaeology after British archaeologist Richard Owen noticed that the stories told about King Tut didn’t make sense, yet several people felt a strong pull to investigate why that story was wrong. From 1984 to 2001 the UK found 3,000 antiquities in Iraq, just 2 years after President George W. Bush ordered the Iraqi insurgency against us, but none of them could help us understand what really happened to that country. And, since 2001, Iraq has had a government; yet there has been nothing more scientific about their attempts to explain their own culture than there was about the US historian David McCullough’s book about American art and Indians. After 2,000 years of writing about Indians, we now look upon the written record and find it doesn’t seem very helpful.
Or what about the story of President Amadala? The Portuguese were herding livestock at nearby trees when they started to hear strange sounds, maybe someone was coming back. So they followed a horse to clear the pasture. The horse stopped for a moment and then moved. They watched, turned around, and found Amadala waiting with an arrow sticking out of him. They took his heart and boiled it to extract the energy he was saving for a future war. Afterwards they recounted the story to their friends who knew all about him and Amadala. It still doesn’t make sense.
What happens when you combine the story of Amadala, Columbus, Amadala, and Columbus Day? They are all written in one of the languages of Spain. In English, the names of Amadala and Columbus (two episodes in a history) are written in Spanish, and the term Columbus (one episode in a history) is written in the languages of all the countries in Europe. It’s another example of how the histories you see made for consumption in museums and textbooks start out different and become very similar to one another. Why? As you can see, I’m not leaving these ideas out of education, or for anyone else to use, and I don’t believe in education if I cannot learn about what I want to learn.