Teaching History

It isn’t happening:

Questioner: What was the Holocaust?
American College Student: Um…I’m on the spot.

Questioner: Which country was Adolf Hitler the leader of?
American College Student: I think it’s Amsterdam?

Questioner: What was Auschwitz?
American College Student: I don’t know.

Questioner: What were the Nuremburg Trials?
American College Student: I don’t know.

Questioner: How many Jews were killed?
American College Student: Hundreds of thousands.

We’re doomed.

17 thoughts on “Teaching History

  1. ken anthony

    This is because they teach a bunch of historical minutia to grade school students. The data overload means they never see the big picture. Less is more.

  2. Bilwick

    No wonder Obama has been so poular among the kids. I”ve often said that, if at this stage of human history–and especially in light of the history of the past 100 years–you think the State is your best friend, and the more money and power we give it, the better off we all will be, you have to be pretty stupid and/or delusional. In the case of the kids, they scarcely even know what history is.

    1. Jim

      the more money and power we give it, the better off we all will be

      But isn’t it the case that we give our government more money and power than we did in centuries past, and also that we’re better off? Correlation isn’t causation, but at the very least it doesn’t appear that increased state power is incompatible with progress in health, wealth, etc.

      1. ken anthony

        Correlation isn’t causation.

        But go on to say so in your next breath.

        Jim, do you suppose there is an opportunity cost when you give billions to government departments that show no improvement in the areas they are suppose to improve?

      2. Robert M Mitchell Jr.

        If we are going off of “appears”, then “increased state power” has a problem. For all of recorded history, “increased state power” has not shown progress in health, wealth, etc, but has shown correlation with invasion by freer, more dynamic cultures, as we saw with Egypt and China, or implosion, as we saw with the Soviet Union and North Korea. Your statement seems to devolve to “Hey, increased state power didn’t completely stop the Industrial Revolution, so no harm, no foul, right?”. If we are looking at history, and progress, Freedom seems to be the way to bet……

      3. rickl

        at the very least it doesn’t appear that increased state power is incompatible with progress in health, wealth, etc.

        Sure, provided you ignore the 100,000,000 or so “broken eggs” in the 20th century.

        1. Jim

          I stipulated “our government”, meaning the U.S. But even if you look globally, the overall trend has been towards less violence (see Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature), better health, more wealth, and more state power. Maybe bigger government contributed to those positive trends, or maybe it was a result of them, but we’ve experienced them together.

          1. wodun

            ” Maybe bigger government contributed to those positive trends, or maybe it was a result of them, ”

            Or maybe it was capitalism and individual freedom.

  3. rickl

    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”
    ~George Santayana

    Or, as I prefer to put it, “Those of us who do remember the past are condemned to repeat it anyway, because those who don’t are in the majority.”

      1. DaveP.

        “History doesn’t always repeat itself. Sometimes it just screams, “WHY WEREN’T YOU PAYING ATTENTION!” and lets fly with a club.”
        –John D. Macdonald

    1. Larry J

      “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. ”
      - Generally falsely attributed to Mark Twain.

  4. Thomas Matula

    The real problem is most folks leave the teaching of history to schools. I learned history from my parents more than from school. Of course being raised in Chicago in a Slavic neighborhood where some neighbors actually were held in concentration camps made a difference as well. For example I remember how I first learned about it when I was 5. I noticed a number on my doctors arm and asked about it. Both the doctor and my dad, who fought in Europe and saw the camps when they were liberated, explained what it meant. Then when I saw it on the arms of neighbors when they visited I knew what it stood for.

    BTW I have done the same for my kids and grandkids, teaching them about WWII and recent history through stories, giving them books to read and going on trips to museums so they understand. History is too important to leave to schools or anyone else.

  5. Bilwick

    In contrast to the Pinker thesis, I prefer the Franz Oppenheimer thesis. *Even if the Pinker thesis is correct, the fact that one warlord was able to establish dominance over several less powerful warlords and bandit chiefs way back, putting an end to a lot of tribal warfare and thus cutting back on violence, doesn’t contradict the obvious lesson of history–especially that of the 20th Century–that the rise of Omnipotent Government* leads to major-league oppression, plunder and slaughter. If people are healthier, it’s probably because they’ve learned to submit. Opposing the State can be dangerous to your health. Very dangerous. (As an estimated 200,000,000 victims of state violence can testify–and that’s just in the 20th Century.) I don’t see how increasing the power of the current plunderbund is going to make us healthier or wealthier (unless you’re one of the receipients of the plunder).

    *See:
    http://mises.org/document/4970

    **as Von Mises called it. Actually when government becomes omnipotent, it actually has become the State.

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