Thursday, September 22, 2011

Are we historically blind?

History (from Greek ἱστορία - historia, meaning "inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation") is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Amongst scholars, the fifth century BC Greek historian Herodotus is considered to be the "father of history", and, along with his contemporary Thucydides, forms the foundations for the modern study of history.
Historians write in the context of their own time, and with due regard to the current dominant ideas of how to interpret the past, and sometimes write to provide lessons for their own society. In the words of Benedetto Croce, "All history is contemporary history". History is facilitated by the formation of a 'true discourse of past' through the production of narrative and analysis of past events relating to the human race. The modern discipline of history is dedicated to the institutional production of this discourse.

All events that are remembered and preserved in some authentic form constitute the historical record. The task of historical discourse is to identify the sources which can most usefully contribute to the production of accurate accounts of past. Therefore, the constitution of the historian's archive is a result of circumscribing a more general archive by invalidating the usage of certain texts and documents (by falsifying their claims to represent the 'true past').
(source: Wikipedia)

History & Geography

When I was in primary school, History and Geography was a favorite subjects, just because I have two great teachers, who did not follow strictly the textbooks. The two teachers I admired and benefited much were a good teachers who instill the desire of students to explore more on the respective fields. From the primary school textbooks, I moved to the books shops in the Carnarvon Street, standing and reading on all books I can found on History and Geography. I read world history, I read world Geography. Malaya history and geography was too small for me, I acquired the global perspective of the subjects.

Even after my primary schools, Geography and History was my strong subjects in lower secondary; but I have to leave history in my upper secondary since I was a pure science student. I scored a A1 in Geography, considered a difficult subject for science student. I have teachers who do not use school textbooks, who will draw a world map, and tell us the location of the country, and then start to tell the story of the country(history and geography), his experience during his visit to the country...this created interest among the students towards the history of the country. When I read Geography, it was habit of reading with history of the country, to know the country better, lesson from my teachers. This habit later helped me in my adult life where I am more global and not narrow minded, it also helped me during my back packing days to other countries.

Developing countries normally have less emphasis on liberal art subjects. In my secondary school days, the educationalists deprived me on my favorite history subject. Today, history is compulsory, but they deprived the students from Geography subjects. History and Geography need to come together.

School History Textbook

Looking at my daughter’s history book, I really feel sad. The history book was very biased towards specific history for secondary students. The school textbooks focused largely on specific national history, and specific religion history. There are many factual errors and historical errors, some deliberately concealed for some hidden agenda. Study history for the current students is just remembering one book, as their teacher told them to do so. Study history is just to pass examination. Many of them knew the history recorded in their history textbook are totally with biased views, and considered it unimportant. They are able to gain more history knowledge from the internet. This created a disrespect attitude toward history subject, just like Moral Education, useless and time wastage for the students. Overzealous textbook authors toward nationalism, had killed the enthusiastic of the students on the history subject.

I asked the students, and they do not know Dr Sun Yat-sen, Abraham Lincoln, Adolf Hitler, Xiang Yu or Liu Bang(Han Dynasty), Martin Luther King, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Winston Churchil....and many historical figures. Making thing worst, Dr Sun Yat-sen and Jawaharlal Nehru had been to Malaya, and yet we did not make use of the story to teach world history.Some politician was so narrow minded that they said this is history of foreigners, why should we know them?. Sooner, our students forgot Malaysian history figures, Yap Ah Loy, Parameswara,Sir Henry Gurney, Lt-Gen Sir Gerald Templer, Dato Onn bin Jaafar, Tun Tan Cheng Lock..... who to blame?...

We produced students who dislike history subject. This history- phobia students matured into adults with historically blind mindset. They are misled by phobia and pseudo history. If they are politician , they will become narrow minded politician who will lead us to more extremism.

In School, we no longer learn actual history; we learn the official history as told by the political party who governed the nation. History was written by the teachers or historian who are not independent, but employed with the government, writing history to please the ruling party. Their views on issues are always biased, either tainted with personal, racial or religion bias. They do not see the alternative views or alternative history. You cannot ignore the past history of the colonization, Japanese occupation, CPM, Socialist Front, DAP, PAS, other opposition and reformation movement, and their contribution to our nation. You cannot only reported the good historical events, and forget the war, revolution, riots, strikes, demonstration, disasters(the ugly historical events). These are all historical events. The students only see the history wrote by the rulers, they did not see the actual history happen in the grassroots and community. They see the history of the upper class, and reject the history of lower poor’s. They see the history of the winners, did not see the history of the losers. They see the form of the history, not substance behind the history. They see the surface and not the historical cause of the event. They do not see the diversity but focus only on their biased personal views.

This will make the students limited their knowledge of history restricted to memory for examination. There will not be any critical thinking of the students on the cause of the past historical events and their consequences to the current and the future. They will be satisfied knowing only their own history and not knowing the history of other countries, other civilization, other religion, and other individuals. A mass generation of narrow minded and historically blinded people will be cultivated by our education system, listening to the history concept of their teachers, the history of the ruling political party. Their history will be limited to their examinations, knowing only history that their teachers want to hear, the education system want to hear....

After 54 years of independence, do the nation has the confidence that our people are able to stand at par with any others in global platform; having an open mind to determine their destination, and to be a responsible global citizen? The teaching of history in schools will tell us the future of this generation.....

Historically blind

Basically, is the nation historically blind? Looking at the many politician's views on national history, and their request to amend the history again, revealed some weaknesses in our history despite 54 years after independence. The nation is still not open, still closed to diversity, alternatives, and differences....

We do not need to be historian to know history; but need to aware of the traps of the history;

1.Pseudohistory - is a term applied to texts which purport to be historical in nature but which depart from standard historiographical conventions in a way which undermines their conclusions. Works which draw controversial conclusions from new, speculative, or disputed historical evidence, particularly in the fields of national, political, military, and religious affairs, are often rejected as pseudo history.

2.History censorship - In many countries history textbooks have been censored to put the national story in a more favorable light. For example, in Japan, mention of the Nanking Massacre has been removed from textbooks and the entire World War II is given cursory treatment. Other countries have complained. It was standard policy in communist countries to present only a rigid Marxist historiography. In the United States the history of the American Civil War was phrased to avoid giving offense to white Southerners and blacks.

3.Politicization - Politicization of history is very common in communist countries and one party ruled country. The ruling power write history or conceal history according to their political motives and agenda. Academic historians have often fought against the politicization of the textbooks, sometimes with success.

4.Historical revisionism - is either the legitimate scholastic re-examination of existing knowledge about a historical event, or the illegitimate distortion of the historical record such that certain events appear in a more or less favorable light. For the former, i.e. the academic pursuit, see historical revisionism. This article deals solely with the latter, the distortion of history, which—if it constitutes the denial of historical crimes—is also sometimes (but not commonly) called negationism. The post-war minimization of the war crimes of Japanese imperialism is an example of illegitimate historical revisionism.

5. Suppression of different views - either by using legal law to restrict or prohibit the alternative history views, some may face imprisonment or death for holding the alternative historical views, especially against the militarism or the one party ruled government. This is against the freedom of expression advocated by the United Nation Human Right.

6. Biased History - History written based on biased prejudice , either personal biased, political biased, religion biased, racial biased, etc, which distorted the actual history or concealed the actual history.

As a commoner, we need to be wise to know the difference between actual and pseudo history. Let the official history telling their glorious days, we know how the national history was formed not by a single person, by a single political party, by single event, it was the interaction of multiple forces, from individuals to communities, from societies to nations, from nations to global. No person can make history alone.....not even his own history.

Unless he is blind towards history....

National History is by the people, for the people....

History is the story of the past, we can created history for the future, but we cannot created history for the past, the actual events had happened, the history of the past needed historian to explore and rediscover the truth, good or ugly, it was our history, you like it or dislike, it is still the truth, our history.

“ I do not believe that history repeats itself in exactly the same form, but it is not a fact that the old questions are always coming up again in a new form? As the years passed on after the war, the bitter lesson of war are forgotten, and such thing as peace and freedom , the authority of learning or the truth , are opt to be lost.In universities and among scholars there is tendency to lose the strength and the spirit to remain loyal to the truth, and not to fawn upon or yield to the power of the world, which I believed should be avoid at all cost… Dr Yanaihara Tadao
(source: The Way I have walked(Watakushi no Ayundekita Michi) , 1958)

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