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Lance
July 19th, 2011, 12:06 PM
Based on some replies from other hot threads, I decided to make this one.

Revisionist History

Where do you stand on the practice of revisionist history? Should schools go back and re-teach and correct certain subjects, if the information within is wrong?

So, a prime example would be this-

Rephrasing texts on the history of the Americas - from the outdated view Columbus discovered America in 1492 to that, in actuallity, Norsemen, led by Leif Eriksson, discovered North America in AD 1000, and eventually established settlements in Newfoundland.

History is an everchanging subject, and with new discoveries being made almost every day, shouldn't the view of our complex past change as well?

Discuss.

Gold warehouse
July 19th, 2011, 12:14 PM
I support this. Schools wouldn't teach outdated forms of other subjects (at least, they shouldn't), why should it be done with history? I can't see why anyone would oppose it unless they want society's knowledge of history to become stagnant.

Kenshin5
July 19th, 2011, 12:27 PM
I think if you are the teacher you wouldn't want to misinform your students and have them internalize info that just isn't correct. Heck if I remember right there was Chinese that made it all the way to the Chilean coast if not the North American Pacific rim. So to say Columbus "discovered" America is silly and shouldn't be taught cause it's just not true at all. Also depictions of minorities should be also shown too more of their side of the story(like attacks on Native American tribes instead of just the American settler viewpoint). Yes they show the civil rights marches, lynchings, bombings. But some schools or the books they use don't really depict or get into the subject matter much.

Blue Nocturne
July 19th, 2011, 01:32 PM
Is this a genuine debate? Why shouldn't we strive to keep all information as accurate and up-to-date as possible? History is all about understanding the past, if we simply ignore new evidence that could further and correct our understanding, then why bother with it at all? You may as well make it all up on the spot.

Esper
July 19th, 2011, 02:05 PM
From wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_revisionism_%28negationism%29): "Historical revisionism is either the legitimate scholastic re-examination of existing knowledge about a historical event, or the illegitimate distortion of the historical record such that certain events appear in a more or less favourable light."

Obviously one is good and the other is bad. The only trouble with it is when you can't tell which is which and you get accusations flying all over the place. But sometimes that's good if it's in the public eye, like with that thing about Sarah Palin getting her facts wrong about parts of the American Revolutionary War and wikipedia getting edited to support her and eventually drawing in a lot of historians who not only fixed the bad revisionist portions but made the article more accurate than it was before the whole thing started.

But yeah, I think that's where any debate is although some people aren't okay with revisions of any kind because they feel it's likely to be the bad kind of revisions, the kind that people do to make someone or something look better, or perhaps give it more prominence than it might otherwise deserve. (We've got a great thread with a lot of talk about that specifically. You know which one.) In my view I think these people are more interested in using history to present 'traditional' values and things like that rather than as a way of learning and understanding. All intellectual disciplines have to be open to change when new evidence and information is available. Some people can't handle change like that because, well, it means they have to face the possibility that they're wrong and that's scary.

Uhoh, got a little tl;dr there.

Lance
July 19th, 2011, 02:42 PM
Is this a genuine debate? Why shouldn't we strive to keep all information as accurate and up-to-date as possible? History is all about understanding the past, if we simply ignore new evidence that could further and correct our understanding, then why bother with it at all? You may as well make it all up on the spot.

The problem is that there are powerful people who don't want this. Look at the movement in Texas to downplay slavery, and to even go so far as to remove Thomas Jefferson and some of his ideals from their history texts a few months ago.

FreakyLocz14
July 19th, 2011, 03:00 PM
If the change is to correct historical inaccuracies, I don't see a problem. If the change is politically motivated, I oppose it.

Åzurε
July 19th, 2011, 03:36 PM
If the change is to correct historical inaccuracies, I don't see a problem. If the change is politically motivated, I oppose it.

Precisely my stance. I feel no need to rephrase.

metronome
July 20th, 2011, 03:22 PM
There's a problem, though, with a lot of the revisionist history being presented today in that there simply isn't any solid historical evidence present for the new stance (eg. Holocaust denial) and the act of looking back upon history is motivated by political reasons (eg. Japanese revisionism of WWII activities).

Looking back at history can remove historical inaccuracies, and should be done in the light of new evidence - for example, the debate around who really had responsibility for WWI has shifted several times in the light of other world events, as well as further information released from certain archives.

I myself was always taught several different interpretations of any given event (curse you, IB History), and our teachers always made sure we knew the reasoning and evidence behind each one.

Alley Cat
July 20th, 2011, 05:52 PM
I think they should just end up teaching the kids what's right. But at the same time, the old history has inspired so much more history, so it'd be like yanking the bottom plate out from under the stack. :/

Esper
July 21st, 2011, 01:02 PM
There's a problem, though, with a lot of the revisionist history being presented today in that there simply isn't any solid historical evidence present for the new stance (eg. Holocaust denial) and the act of looking back upon history is motivated by political reasons (eg. Japanese revisionism of WWII activities).
Holocaust denial is a pretty clear case of someone completely ignoring evidence rather than trying to reinterpret evidence though. That kind of attempt to change history is very obvious and does not get very far except with fringe groups.

But your other example is a good one for the dangers of having only one source (or very close-knit group of sources) for you history. I had a class in college that covered a lot of ancient Japanese history and included how Japanese archeologists and other academics would often collude with business and other groups in power to "interpret" evidence in certain ways that were more palatable to the public, or certain segments of the public. If you don't have more than one authority backing up your history I'd be suspicious of anything it said.

Lance
July 22nd, 2011, 08:19 PM
I think they should just end up teaching the kids what's right. But at the same time, the old history has inspired so much more history, so it'd be like yanking the bottom plate out from under the stack. :/

True, but teaching kids outright lies doesn't get them anywhere either. They'd probably be looked down upon if they were still taught by old, incorrect information. Misinformation breeds ignorance.