Selective History

Selective History

I just received this in an email with batch of other Churchill quotes.  I do enjoy a chunk of good thought-provoking quotes. But, as always with Churchill quotes, mixed in with the gold is a large dose of made-up stuff as Brits with a prejudice try to commandeer the “Greatest Ever Briton” to defend their cause.  This doesn’t help us to address the very real and divisive issues that threaten our world today every bit as much as Nazism did in Churchill’s day.

If we are to tackle today’s issues well, we need to be more honest with ourselves about our heritage – including Churchill.  In the words of one commentator: “The greater the person and their influence, the greater the impact of their victories and failures.  Do not ignore his victories but don’t ignore his failures either.”  On one of his horrific failures, have a listen to Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Prime Minister and the Prof

In my experience, the problem with history in British schools is not that it is no longer taught (as the original sender of the quotes seems to fear) but that it only covers 3 topics:

  1. The Romans (to show we are an ancient nation and from the start have been on the top of the global civilisation pile);
  2. The Tudors (to show that we discovered the world and are responsible for the greatest works of literature in that world’s lingua franca – Shakespeare and the King James translation of the Bible); and
  3. WW2 to show that when it comes to our closest neighbours (the EU) the world has us to thank for keeping them in check and putting things right.

What about the fact we were conquered by the Romans and the Normans? What about the fact that the Elizabethan explorers were state-sponsored pirates?  What about that we were the ones that Ghandi had to stand up against?

What about the atrocities of African slave trade?  What about the abuses of the majority of our citizenry that caused Marx to write Das Kapital? We were the problem the Communist states were disastrously founded to try to solve! What about the filling of our national coffers with drug money from the Opium Wars?  This is history that was never taught in school but it is every bit as important as the stuff that has been taught on permanent repeat.

We cannot hope to build a better future unless we are honest about the whole truth of our past. In the words of Churchill: “A country that forgets its past has no future.”