Revisionist History

This is a bad idea, particularly since the Bush family is going to need some revisionist history down the road to teach people that Jeb wasn’t a moron and George W. wasn’t the worst president in history:

And just last week, in an unprecedented move, the president’s brother approved a law barring revisionist history in Florida public schools. “The history of the United States shall be taught as genuine history and shall not follow the revisionist or postmodernist viewpoints of relative truth,” declares Florida’s Education Omnibus Bill, signed by Gov. Jeb Bush. “American history shall be viewed as factual, not as constructed.”

Now, I don’t truthfully see how this can pass First Amendment muster, since it violates the right to free speech. That being said, it is a dumb, ignorant thing to do. Speaking as a professional historian (and echoing the article), history doesn’t work this way. There is no simple “genuine” history that is “factual” and not “constructed.” There is no historical event, not even one from yesterday, wherein we know for 100% what happened. Everyone who ever lived and recorded something had biases or made mistakes or lied, etc. Everyone constructs “facts” to support their own biases and ideology and religion, etc. Who is to say what the simple objective facts are? That being said, we can study what happened in the past — from varying accounts, documents, photos, video, etc. — and come to a conclusion about what is most likely to be true. Now don’t confuse me with a postmodernist — I’m certainly not — I do believe that an objective truth is out there and we can discover a lot of it, but there just isn’t a way to get 100% of the information on a particular event, person, or historical movement. It just can’t be done. So how do we figure out which version of history is the right one? Is it only the one Jeb and the Republicans approve of? Fuck that. I’m a teacher in Florida and there is absolutely no way I’m obeying this law under any circumstances.

The whole thing is a straw man anyway, since I’ve yet to meet any history teachers who believe that postmodernism is correct. If it were, there would be no point in studying anything, so one wouldn’t do it (except maybe in literature and art).

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4 thoughts on “Revisionist History

  1. This bill is repugnant and quite possibly the most fascist move by the Bushies yet. I taught next to an awful “history” teacher last year, and amazingly his bigoted teaching is now within the state mandated standards.

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