Lazy Luddite Log

19.8.06

Opinions as Facts of History

I got a letter published in the Australian on the topic of history education in schools. Yay me!

It’s good to see the federal Government emphasising the importance of history in the school curriculum ("States told to rewrite history”, 18/8), but the call for more emphasis on “dates and facts” can only go so far. What are facts in the context of a history lesson?

Certainly, it’s a fact that Federation occurred in 1901, but are the reasons behind this historic event “facts” or opinions? That event was the product of a whole host of different opinions that motivated people to behave and interact in various ways, with Federation as the end result.

To understand any event, we have to go beyond dates and delve into the varying opinions of the people who made that history. In human endeavour, opinions become facts because they impact on what happens. They have to be conveyed in the classroom in an objective and open-minded way, which will inevitably lead to students forming their own interpretations of history. This may sound “postmodern” to those who prefer their history cut-and-dried, but it’s unavoidable.

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2 Comments:

  • Good points. Well said. Congratulations. :-)

    By Blogger Jac, At 19 August, 2006  

  • Much of my letter states the bleeding obvious, but sometimes that is needed in debates clouded by ideology or indeed 'anti-ideology'. Those behind the government statements on this issue are fixated on the danger posed by a handful of postmodernists who think that all facts are 'culturally constructed'. That is nonsense, but the power of those few educationalists is overstated and the response to them is an over-reaction. And any violent over-reaction to an ideology may as well be an ideology in itself.

    Actually I am overly kind to the government on that front. Another distinct possibility is this: Those behind the government statements resent the fact that they have lost the power they once had to dictate what interpretations of history are made. Such power is contested between a number of perspectives and they object to the fact that they now must cope with some competition within the establishment.

    By Blogger Daniel, At 22 August, 2006  

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