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  • A Real Education

    Chapter 5: History Class

    By Punkerslut

    Start Date: January 10, 2002
    Finish Date: January 28, 2002

    History Class

         History class, often described by students and teachers alike as the most useless class, [*1] is the class where education could bloom but is strangled in the hands of vice. This wondrous subject has been turned into sterile dates and locations, memorization of capitols, and how to correctly spell the names of individuals who have held important titles: conquerer, statesman, musician, artist, author, scientist, etc., etc.. When a class of students today is taught history, they are taught about history. They do not experience the past for themselves, but they have modern writers describe the past for them. It is so much more of a rich and dynamic atmosphere when people learn history when they are taught through history and not about history. For example, consider the great development and progression of the Women's Suffrage Movement. One may speak gloriously of such fighters, of such Women's Rights champions, but to do so in a history class would only do a fraction of justice to the topic. What a class of students would learn in a half hour from talking about such Suffragists would not equate to how much they would learn from reading the speeches themselves. Consider the great and unleveled eloquence of Elizabeth Cady Stanton...

    But we are assembled to protest against a form of government existing without the consent of the governed -- to declare our right to be free as man is free, to be represented in the government which we are taxed to support, to have such disgraceful laws as give man the power to chastise and imprison his wife, to take the wages which she earns, the property which she inherits, and, in case of separation, the children of her love; laws which make her the mere dependent on his bounty. It is to protest against such unjust laws as these that we are assembled today, and to have them, if possible, forever erased from our statute books, deeming them a shame and a disgrace to a Christian republic in the nineteenth century. [*2]

         Even though some may agree with how Stanton describes the United States as a Christian republic - she would later state, "the Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women's emancipation," [*3] - the usage of such a direct and powerful speech will make undeniable pardons to the emotions of every student. In this way, students will learn history by understanding what exactly it was that was in the past. Our textbooks can speak of Communism, of the spread of ideas by Marx and Engels, of the rise and fall of Lenin, Stalin, and Mao, or it can be described with the words of the famous Communist theorists. Consider the most famous political document, The Communist Manifesto...

    Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.

    In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations.

    The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones. [*4]

         From reading only a few excerpts from such a brilliant document, it will fill the students will awe and inspiration. This class which studies cultures is not at all about siding with one culture against another; it is based on presenting fairly the ideas of thinkers, not subjecting them to cruel or unfair prejudices. The works of Adam Smith and Ayn Rand will be presented with equal justice to those of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The Crusades have always been a topic in almost any history class. There is no better way to describe the horrors spread by such a holy war than by quoting an eyewitness...

    Many fled to the roof of the temple of Solomon, and were shot with arrows, so that they fell to the ground dead. In this temple almost ten thousand were killed. Indeed, if you had been there you would have seen our feet colored to our ankles with the blood of the slain. But what more shall I relate? None of them were left alive; neither women nor children were spared.


    This may seem strange to you. Our squires and poorer footmen discovered a trick of the Muslims, for they learned that they could find a gold coin in the stomachs and intestines of the dead Muslims, who had swallowed them. Thus, after several days they burned a great heap of dead bodies, that they might more easily get the precious metal from the ashes. [*5]

         The only way to teach students a valuable history is to teach them actual history instead of about history. The various ideas that we find circulating certain cultures can fascinate and mesmerize the developing minds of students. We must present these ideas as they have come throughout history. The only aspects of a history textbook that ought to talk about history are those which are too erroneous to need a quote concerning it, such as the date something happened, the date someone traveled somewhere, military campaigns, etc., etc.. Students should be immersed in the societies and cultures that they study, learning about the life of the average person in those societies and learning about the abstract works in their lives that may have affected them. Often, however, history is degraded by the historians. As many have put it, victors write the history of their enemies. It is so that way with many of our school text books and society in general. It is most prominent with those who are Atheistic. To quote Carl Sagan...

    Except for the first week of introductory philosophy courses, though, the names and notions of the early Ionians are almost never mentioned in our society. Those who dismiss the gods tend to be forgotten. We are not anxious to preserve the memory of such skeptics, much less their ideas. Heroes who try to explain the world in terms of matter and energy may have arisen many times in many cultures, only to be obliterated by the priests and philosophers in charge of the conventional wisdom -- as the Ionian approach was almost wholly lost after the time of Plato and Aristotle. [*6]

         To a large degree, Sagan is right. Rarely do high school history books discuss the 250 books of Joseph McCabe, nor his 3,000 speeches. The innumerable works of Robert Green Ingersoll are forever lost, doomed to those who search for what the history books missed. Charles Bradlaugh and his efforts for secularism will not be mentioned between the pages of any school history book. There is no comment upon how the Roman Catholic Church brutally burned Giordano Bruno at the stake. The textbooks do not reveal how the works of Hobbes, Paine, Diderot, Huxley, Nietzsche, and of Twain speak against Christianity. There is no reference to the contempt for Christianity held by many of the founding fathers, and the disbelief of it held by all of the founding fathers. The worst crime has been committed against the greatest people. Robert Green Ingersoll detested slavery immensely and fought as a colonel in the Civil War yet he was denied the right to run for office because of his infidelity. It's amusing that one particular US History textbook is entitled, "History of a Free Nation." [*7] When individuals in the late 1800's were seeking to exclude the Chinese from the United States citizenry, Ingersoll gave the following speech...

    The average American, like the average man of any country, has but little imagination. People who speak a different language, or worship some other god, or wear clothing unlike his own, are beyond the horizon of his sympathy. He cares but little or nothing for the sufferings or misfortunes of those who are of a different complexion or of another race. His imagination is not powerful enough to recognize the human being, in spite of peculiarities. Instead of this he looks upon every difference as an evidence of inferiority, and for the inferior he has but little if any feeling. If these "inferior people" claim equal rights be feels insulted, and for the purpose of establishing his own superiority tramples on the rights of the so-called, inferior. [*8]

         Every historian has known that to show favoritism, prejudice, or discrimination is not a very historical manner at all. Cicero has written, "The first law is that the historian shall never dare to set down what is false; the second, that he shall never dare to conceal the truth; the third, that there shall be no suspicion in his work of either favoritism or prejudice." [*9] Lucian of Samosata, in his work How History Should Be Written, has written, "The historian should be fearless and incorruptible; a man of independence, loving frankness and truth." [*10] It is obvious that the writers of our school textbooks have failed to meet these very reasonable conditions. Just as the history of Atheism and infidelity seems to be left entirely out of our school textbooks, there are monstrously large lies spread of the great infidels. To quite one school book...

    "From her Quaker upbringing, Susan B. Anthony learned that men and women were equal before God. She spent most of her 86 years trying to convince others of that equality." [*11]

         The school book describes Susan B. Anthony as a religious figure, trying to demonstrate to people that everyone is equal before the eyes of god. Just a little studying of Susan B. Anthony's character would reveal that she did not believe in god at all. She considered the Bible a "'He-book' from beginning to end. It has a He-God, a He-Christ, He-angels. Woman has no glory anywhere in the pages of the Bible." [*12] She held that the Bible - the foundation of Christianity - was not at all helpful to the cause of women's suffrage. However, the school textbook reports that Anthony tried to prove to individuals that men and women were equal before god. If this text book was written with an iota of integrity and historical accuracy, it would have read, "Susan B. Anthony learned that the Bible was oppressive and cruel as it hindered the efforts of Women's Suffrage." The prime objective of school textbooks is not at all to show an honest look at history. It is rather based on guessing what happened, making many invalid assumptions, and swaying all of history so that it is slanted.

         This can be most obvious with the history of the Communist movement in the United States. Among the textbooks in schools, we can read an insurmountable amount of stories of the murders done by Communists. However, none of the oppression on Communists is ever recorded in our history books. It always seems to be blotted out. Ever since the rise of McCarthy and the anti-Communists in the 50's and 60's, there have been numerous incidents where Communists were oppressed, but not one word of this leaks into the pages of our history. Instead, we hear of the oppression of other races and the liberation of all men and women, despite skin color or gender. Rarely, however, do we find our text books glorifying the liberation of mind - the right for any individual to delve into books of any subject and educate themselves. Of many emancipations will we hear of and discuss when it is the body chained to the will of another. In no way do I degrade such emancipations, but mental freedom is not in any way praised, and rarely is it ever discussed. Rarely do we hear about the equality of gender in Communist nations - something held to be absolutely imperative in Communist nations. When women were just attaining the right to vote in the United States, they had full equality in Soviet Russia. In a speech dedicating a day to the International Working Woman, Vladimir Lenin proclaimed...

    But even in the matter of formal equality (equality before the law, the "equality" of the well-fed and the hungry, of the man of property and the propertyless), capitalism cannot be consistent. And one of the most glaring manifestations of this inconsistency is the inequality of women. Complete equality has not been granted even by the most progressive republican, and democratic bourgeois states.

    The Soviet Republic of Russia, on the other hand, at once swept away all legislative traces of the inequality of women without exception, and immediately ensured their complete equality before the law.

    It is said that the best criterion of the cultural level is the legal status of women. This aphorism contains a grain of profound truth. From this standpoint only the dictatorship of the proletariat, only the socialist state could attain, as it has attained, the highest cultural level. The new, mighty and unparalleled stimulus given to the working women's movement is therefore inevitably associated with the foundation (and consolidation) of the first Soviet Republic--and, in addition to and in connection with this, with the Communist International.


    It is the chief task of the working women's movement to fight for economic and social equality, and not only formal equality, for women. The chief thing is to get women to take part in socially productive labour, to liberate them from "domestic slavery", to free them from their stupefying and humiliating subjugation to the eternal drudgery of the kitchen and the nursery. [*13]

         In 1950, the United States government passed the Internal Security Act, prohibiting association with groups which wish to violently overthrow the government. In 1954, this was changed to the Communist Control Act, making it illegal to join the Communist Party. In 1956, Dr. Kalman Berenyi was denied citizenship to the United States because he was a member of the Communist Party. There were many attempts to deport other Communists: Rowoldt, Niukkanen, Kleindienst, among others. In 1957, Barenblatt was fined and imprisoned for refusing to answer whether or not he was a member of the Communist Party. The Committee on Un-American Activities thoroughly persecuted many individuals. Deutch was persecuted for refusing to name other Communists. In 1913, at age ten Nowak was admitted to the United States from Poland, but in 1952, the United States said that such documents were forced and attempted to deport him because of the belief that he was a Communist. Dennis, the General Secretary of the Communist Party, was convicted for refusing to appear before the Committee on Un-American Activities. After being a citizen of the United States for twelve years, Schneiderman was denied his citizenship by the United State government because he was a Communist. What makes each of these incidents important is that they all reached the Supreme Court - the systematic oppression of Communism and Freedom of Thought. Yet rarely do the textbooks of our schools discuss such cases. The Supreme Court ruled in one particular case...

    We are directly concerned only with the rights of this petitioner and the circumstances surrounding his naturalization, but we should not overlook the fact that we are a heterogeneous people. In some of our larger cities a majority of the school children are the offspring of parents only one generation, if that far, removed from the steerage of the immigrant ship, children of those who sought refuge in the new world from the cruelty and oppression of the old, where men have been burned at the stake, imprisoned, and driven into exile in countless numbers for their political and religious beliefs. Here they have hoped to achieve a political status as citizens in a free world in which men are privileged to think and act and speak according to their convictions, without fear of punishment or further exile so long as they keep the peace and obey the law. [*14]

         The rules that historians have put down were intelligent and made for the sake of truth. As for our history textbooks, they ought to abide by the same principles. The history in the school textbooks should be written with objectivity and without prejudice. Significant facts in history concerning all groups and cultures should not be suppressed. Consider another quote from a history book...

    "Many experts on childhood concluded that Spock's permissive methods led to a generation of young people in the next decade who were used to getting their own way." [*15]

         This is perhaps one of the most swayed views of history yet. It states the father of modern baby care and his methods led to obnoxious young people. This is a wildly uneducated statement. Prior to the developments and research of Dr. Spock, it was a common urban myth that you were not supposed to touch infants or babies, not even to hold or show affection towards them. Such ignorance and cruelty arose from and out of these myths. Physicians concurred with these methods, but Dr. Spock was a beacon of intelligence among a barbaric collective. Before Dr. Spock, there was Dr. John b. Watson. "Never, never kiss your child. Never hold it in your lap. Never rock its carriage." [*16] These are the words of the unfeeling doctor. Spock took a radically different position, "You know more than you think you do... What good mothers and fathers instinctively feel like doing for their babies is usually best." [*17] It is true that the gross slander of this genius is absolutely uncalled for and perhaps one of the most uneducated statements of all history. Yet it is exactly what is taught to the students of the United States.

         Beyond the simplicity of a history class teaching about the past as far as cultural, political, and religious aspects go, history should be something that is much more than just facts concerning the past. History class should be a center of culture and an examination of values, trends, beliefs, and creeds. In history class, students should be engrossed in ancient and contemporary societies, learning about the various aspects of civilization, the mainstream and the underground. Students should learn about the literature, the music, the instruments, the food, the arts, the politics, the religion, and the other aspects of ancient cultures. Students cannot simply just learn about these topics by just reading about them, either. All forms of media must be available to them so that they learn exactly what these things are, as well as to inform and educate them of these particular topics. In regards to the arts, they should be able to hear the instruments of times past, they should be able to read the literature of fallen authors, they should be able to watch the plays and films that captivated audiences all over the world. By providing students with this luxurious presentation of the arts - paintings, pottery, sculptures, music, dance, literature, poetry - so that the students will be given the opportunities to expand their creativity.

         The other classes in the curriculum of school will help to serve this purpose: exploring and developing the creativity of students. There should be a class where students can construct the various forms of pottery from the Etruscans to the Egyptians as well as a class where students would be allowed to play instruments from the drums to the digeridoo. A class that examines the poetry of Shakespeare to Shelley to Frost as well as a literature class that examines the works of Tolstoy to Wells to Orwell would provide fascinating insights to the curious students. Classes of every genre and every area should be provided to students so that they may learn their passions, and it should be provided to them in a dynamic atmosphere to promote learning. Of monotonous teaching and failing in literacy, Carl Sagan has said, "If the quality of education available to you is inadequate, if you're taught rote memorization rather than how to think, if the content of what you're first given to read comes from a nearly alien culture, literacy can be a rocky road." [*18] In this new school, where classes are voluntary and learning is not a thing of hate and pain, education will truly bloom. Information provided through various outlets of media will stream into the minds of the students. The eagerness of the student will be enhanced by allowing them to attend any class that they desire. The dark cloud which has covered formal education for all these years will disappear. The sunlight will reach the withered flower of education, giving it life and vitality.

         In this wonderful atmosphere of creativity and learning, one part will serve as a center to it all: a library. In this invaluable center, the students who are intrigued by Epicurus and Descartes can examine philosophy and the students who are fascinated by Frank Loyd Wright and James Hoban can study architecture. The purpose of a library is to provide information to those desire it. A library should provide all sorts of paper information: literature, poetry, paintings, how-to manuals, science journals, magazines, newsletters, etc., etc.. A library will the serve the purpose of away-from-class activities, when students feel that they wish to do independent studying and learning. In such an atmosphere, they will be able to excel exceptionally. I'm very optimistic about the recent developments of technology and computers when it comes to education. There are many websites on the internet which host ancient texts that are not available in most libraries or bookstores. Aside from the available ancient texts, there are many websites which are useful in helping students perform better in school. Francisco Ferrer has said...

    IN setting out to establish a rational school for the purpose of preparing children for their entry into free solidarity of humanity, the first problem that confronted us was the selection of books. The whole educational luggage of the ancient system was an incoherent mixture of science and faith, reason and unreason, good and evil, human experience and revelation, truth and error; in a word, totally unsuited to meet the new needs that arose with the formation of a new school.

    If the school has been from remote antiquity equipped not for teaching in the broad sense of communicating to the rising generation the gist of the knowledge of previous generations, but for teaching on the basis of authority and the convenience of the ruling classes, for the purpose of making children humble and submissive, it is clear that none of the books hitherto used would suit us. [*19]

         It is within this modern, rational school where education should be allowed to bloom. If learning is forced upon the mind, we will learn only one thing: to detest learning. That by which is loved and cherished by us is only that by which we love sincerely and genuinely. If the faculties of the student are unrestrained, unrelinquished, then they may be given the opportunity to freely prosper, develop, grow, and flourish. The choice will be in the hands of the student. Once they are provided with an open and free environment, where they are not restricted to use their liberty to full degree, then a real education can begin. With the vast amount of choices and options open to the student, a school based on a real education would teach the students independence and give them valuable skills. It would teach them the arts so that they may be creative and so that they may explore. In this modern school where a real education is promoted and independence is given to the students, learning would be insurmountable.


    *1. There will be those who assert, "Those who do not know the past are doomed to repeat it," but I doubt the history of 3000 years will teach all the lessons. Simple knowledge of history is not all that is needed for such a belief, as well. One may be able to identify the mishaps of Hitler waging war against Russia and England simultaneously, and losing just as Napoleon had lost. However, even though that mishap is identified, others are not, such as how religion can be traced back to every evil throughout history. Frederick Douglass, the runaway slave, believed that slavery was of god, but that motto - "Slavery is of God," - was also the motto of many Christian churches.
    *2. ADDRESS:FIRST WOMEN'S-RIGHTS CONVENTION, delivered by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, on July 19, 1848.
    *3. Free Thought magazine, September 1896.
    *4. The Manifesto of the Communist Party, by Karl Mark and Friedrich Engels, 1848.
    *5. The Capture of Jerusalem, 1099, by Fulk of Chartres, chapter 27-28. Edited for clarity. ("Byzant" changed to "gold coin" and "Saracen" changed to "Muslim.")
    *6. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, by Carl Sagan, pages 310, published by Ballantine Books.
    *7. History of a Free Nation, by Henry W. Bragdon, Samuel P. McCutchen, and Donald A. Ritchie, Glencoe, McGraw-Hill.
    *8. The Chinese Exclusion, by Robert Green Ingersoll, 1898.
    *9. Quoted from The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, by Carl Sagan, pages 341, published by Ballantine Books.
    *10. How History Should Be Written, by Lucian of Samosata, 170.
    *11. History of a Free Nation, by Henry W. Bragdon, Samuel P. McCutchen, and Donald A. Ritchie, page 553, Glencoe, McGraw-Hill.
    *12. Who's Who In Hell, by Warren Allen Smith, entry for "Anthony, Susan Brownwell."
    *13. International Working Women's Nation, March 4, 1920; found in: Pravda, March 8, 1920 (special issue), Signed: N. Lenin.
    *14. U.S. Supreme Court: SCHNEIDERMAN v. UNITED STATES, 320 U.S. 118 (1943), 320 U.S. 118. Reargued March 12, 1943. Decided June 21, 1943.
    *15. History of a Free Nation, by Henry W. Bragdon, Samuel P. McCutchen, and Donald A. Ritchie, page 875, Glencoe, McGraw-Hill.
    *16. Psychological Care of Infant and Child, by Dr. John B. Watson, 1928.
    *17. The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, by Dr. Spock, 1946.
    *18. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, by Carl Sagan, pages 358, published by Ballantine Books.
    *19. Francisco Ferrer, Origin and Ideals of the Modern School, chapter 11, published 1913.

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