Ignoring past mistakes in education

By By Tristan Bennett

By Tristan Bennett

One of the most memorable scenes from the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is when Tom tricks several local school children into painting, or whitewashing, a fence for him. Tom convinces them by making them think he is having a great time and that any person not whitewashing the fence is missing out.

In a similar way, we as pupils are being tricked into believing the things professors and textbooks say.

It is a mistake to try and gloss over the dark pieces of truth or history with a fresh coat of paint, or whitewash.

This is especially true of American history textbooks that like to cover up the unpleasant things of the past with a fresh coat of modern-day wisdom. In today’s language, this type of “covering up” is known as whitewashing.

It never hurts to see the world from another person’s perspective–especially historically. However, there is only one version of the truth, even if that truth is dark and nasty.

Let’s face it. Christopher Columbus’ world-changing discovery altered the lives of countless millions, and many of those millions were affected for the worse. Finding a “new world” brought a bloody clash of cultures, values and civilizations. The “explorers” did some nasty things in the name of exploration and educating the “savages,” and yet this is rarely, if ever, taught in school.

The past can’t be altered, and many people have gone to the edge of insanity trying to correct past mistakes.

It is said that in communist Russia, when a new leader would come into power, they would attempt to erase all of the history that was recorded previously, thereby erasing the memories of the rulers who had power before them.

In comparing the circumstance of whitewashed history with literature, George Orwell’s book 1984 has a main character employed by the state in an office where he is supposed to eliminate and censor the information being given to the masses. This system is shown to be so complex that he is not even the first person to read the news–he is one of many who are meant to eliminate several words while someone before and after him continues the job. The leaders of that land see the truth as explosive and potentially damaging to their power.

Our situation today might not be as dangerous, but how long will it take for it to become so, especially if we continue to follow this vein of political correctness, historical whitewashing and fear of offending or hurting someone’s feelings?

To whitewash our history is to deny who we are and where we have come from. To whitewash our history is to mock everyone who has tried to bring the truth to light, however ugly or grimy it might actually be.

To whitewash our history is to say that we have learned nothing from past errors.

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