Opinions as Facts of History
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.