It may not be the teachers who lie to our children about history—it may be history itself, especially when books are written from the perspective of the “winner.” A prime example of an accurate historical account is that of the survivors of the Holocaust. Did they win? No, and the suffering that these individuals endured discount any feelings of joy. Technically, allies of the British forces (including America) were the winners.
However, the historical account of the war is taught to our children through the perspective of those who were against Nazi beliefs and actions. History does not have much of an interest in the experiences of the Nazi party in the late 1930s and ‘40s.
If most historical accounts are written by those who live to tell their stories, it’s reasonable to conclude that most school history books include perceptions that come from only one side of a war. How, then, can the history books that teachers use for our children offer unbiased and factual accounts of events?
Books that survived wars
Book burnings and even just decomposition due to time and weather leave people with a limited amount of material to support some of their historical beliefs. Even some of the ancient texts like the Gnostic Gospels are not fully acknowledged due to certain belief systems. Since there are two sides to every story (and maybe more), how can history books be reliable? People know how Christopher Columbus came to America, but the national holiday of Columbus Day does not acknowledge how American Indians feel about the holiday or the atrocities that occurred throughout the country as a result.
As Kevin Kline’s character in the movie “The Emperor’s Club” states to his students, “Great ambition and conquest without contribution is without significance. What will your contribution be? How will history remember you?”
Journalism students are often shocked by one of the first things they learn about in most university programs: the trickle-down effect. Those who own the channels control the content of the channels. Owners of the networks can pick and choose words to avoid—and even stories to avoid—if those words or stories do not fit with their own agenda or beliefs. If current events are not accurately reported, then how will anyone be able to accurately record history?
The way that citizens perceive what is occurring in the world can also have a great impact on their actions. For example, in Cleveland, Ohio, protests were covered by many different media outlets. This approach can lead to a better chance of hearing what is occurring in real-time since the bias of media owners will be present within almost all media stations and even within print journalism. Protests regarding race relations and police officers occurred around the U.S. just before Clevelanders decided to protest.
These protesters went to a downtown block full of outdoor restaurants and began to pepper-spray people sitting down enjoying their dinners. The protesters were angered by what they heard on the news. Local news stations and national coverage consistently repeated that “an unarmed couple was shot many times and killed.” This statement would make anyone angry. Did all news outlets also mention that the couple was on drugs and tried to run over cops in a middle school parking lot? No.
The Clevel and event is a perfect example of how the actions of the media will inevitably affect history. How will history remember the protests? History books will likely teach our children that police shot many unarmed African Americans in 2015, resulting in protests.
The truth is much more complex. The Cleveland Chief of Police is African American, as are other members of the downtown force. However, the media bias suggesting that all shootings around this time are due to race relations can cause events to go down in history in the way the media first portrayed them.
Documentaries and other propaganda
Documentaries bring to light many issues of which people may have otherwise remained unaware. In addition, documentaries give people an opportunity to hear the truth about those who have lived in certain conditions… right?
Unfortunately, this notion is not always accurate. Just as media bias remains prevalent, documentaries do not always show history from more than one standpoint. Although films like “Fast Food Nation” and others present interesting and accurate information, most documentaries follow a thesis. The filmmaker often has their own theory about what occurred or is occurring in the world.
If teachers decide to show only certain documentaries to children, will children get a skewed view of the world as a result? When teachers remain fully aware of the inevitable bias within their given sources, they may be able to focus on providing students with a more well-rounded view of history.
IMDB. The Emperor’s Club. Quotes. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0283530/quotes