There is a fundamental problem with how we teach history, in fact, there’s a problem with how we convey stories to the public nowadays. When I was a little girl in primary school, I clearly remember being sat down with all the other children at circle time, being taught how to compromise. We were told of the need to understand both sides of an argument, and then form our own opinions. And so why do we not teach history in such a way? Why do we focus on the villains of society who have plagued nations, and suggest a general advancement to the superior state which we live in? The curriculum teaches us to thank history for our development and yet opinion polls suggest the public are still discontent with the state of society. We will never be appeased, but is this sufficient reason to brainwash a young population into accepting the ideals of today?
Part of the problem is that we are so used to fairy tales with distinct moral heroes we can adhere to be like. Life is not a fairytale. Yes, there are people who are instinctive virtues tell us are evil through their actions like Hitler; we condemn the Holocaust he helped to create, and yet neglect how he helped Germany resurface. There are reasons he was idolised throughout Germany, and yet our history courses briefly skip over that. There are greater evils, in our history such as Genghis Khan and Godfrey of Bouillon, who rarely feature in our history textbooks compared to Hitler and Stalin, and yet the proportion of people they massacred during their rule and the divisions of society they created is just as bad if not worse. The neglect of the ancient evils for modern history – I feel – has one distinct cause: the modern history villains (as we choose to portray them) have had a direct threat to our current civilisation. Their authoritarian regimes have only recently threatened to topple our views of democracy. We only report on recent history in such a version of clarity because democracy wasn’t even a concept during the reign of ancient time, and that’s hard for people to get their heads around. The rule of modern history will always supersede the teaching of ancient history with an unfair bias because it is easier to teach about villains that threaten Britain than to give a fair, well-rounded view of rulers. This is because our morals and national pride create this standpoint in which we will view all events.
This is damning for us as a country because, realistically, it makes us believe we are superiors and have ultimately come to the best conclusion as to how to rule the world. Our say is final and so we have the right to pass judgement on foreign affairs that have very little to do with us. Despite all of our teaching about morals in history, however, we distance ourselves from the grotesque reality of situations. We do not take a humanitarian view of Middle East crises or religious disputes until they threaten us directly. Perhaps this is because there are so many atrocities on both sides that we become uncomfortable, as our “pick a side” mentality that we have been taught in history is ultimately flawed.
And so the problem continues. Newspapers offer a clear subjective view of current day conflicts that obscure our own moral compasses. Western sources paint Putin as a villain, there are cries to stop Israel and to introduce democracy to the Middle East, yet if you visited another part of the globe you would easily find somebody who could coherently disagree with you based upon their experiences. We will not all share the same opinion, and it is the publication of, and access to, the differing views of recent history that create a living truth in them for believers, and that inspire the opposing sides to stand up for what they believe in. Am I openly encouraging fierce debate to lead to fierce fighting, as opposed to the nationalist view of history that at least insures unity throughout the country? Not quite. I don’t believe debate and action are necessarily linked; we need to represent history without any bias to leave people to form their own morals. It is only by this development of the moral code that we can truly see what motivates people to act and further advance the world as a whole. We may not achieve world peace this way, but equally, we will not achieve any form of peace in fostering ignorance in our youths.