Tuesday, May 12, 2015

History is Powerful

Attempts to deny or distort history have been around for as long as history itself, but to allow the denial or distortion of history is not only morally wrong, but it can create situations where horrific parts of history can be repeated.

Perhaps one of the most egregious examples of this is the attempt to deny or distort the Holocaust.  The Holocaust is one of the most well documented events in history, yet some individuals spread the belief that this event did not happen, or that it was not as bad as we think.  According to experts, Holocaust denial and distortion are generally motivated by hatred of Jews, and build on the claim that the Holocaust was invented or exaggerated by Jews as part of a plot to advance Jewish interests. In an absurd attempt to defy all logic and the countless documented atrocities of the holocaust, these deniers persist in their warped viewpoints.

The holocaust is not the only part of history that has been challenged.  The Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire has been extremely controversial, with many prominent political leaders refusing to use the word genocide to describe the systematic killing and relocation of more than one million Armenians from Turkey in 1915.  Political expediency and unwillingness to admit blame have prevented an accurate description of events, in Turkey it is actually illegal to use the word ‘genocide’ in relation to the mass killing of Armenians in 1915. 

Other notable examples of distortion include the former Soviet Union, in their attempts to ‘erase’ what they considered to be undesirable facts from their past. Some simple methods the Soviets used to revise history were changing the name of Russia's former Imperial capital St. Petersburg to Petrograd, Leningrad and Stalingrad, in an attempt to eradicate memories of Tsarist rule. Historical revisions carried out by Stalin included changing photographs and history books, thereby distorting children's learning within educational establishments.

The soviets are not alone in their attempts to influence the education of children to erase or distort facts from the past.  North Korea is famous for controlling what their citizens are taught, including teaching North Korean children that Kim Jong Il was walking at three weeks old and talking at eight weeks old and that he was born under a double rainbow.
There have been many reports in the news of U.S. textbook companies removing references to slavery or other facts that they deem too 'negative' to include in history books for American school children.   A quick search on google will share numerous examples all over the world where history is being denied or distorted - and this mis-information is being taught to children.  This is incredibly dangerous; we will have generations of children who are unaware or misinformed about the important events in history, and as Edmund Burke reminds us, "Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it."  

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