This is just going to be a quick post/rant that delves into the pitfalls that make up the core of the history education system which I imagine, is apparent in most universities and institutions across North America and Western Europe.
Let's start off by acknowledging that history is sadly one of those subjects that is heavily burdened by dis-accord in the way in which it's taught and interpreted. I would love to be a student of hard science and mathematics where in which the subject matter is precise and universal and seldom is there conflicting perspectives, or agendas for that matter. But at the same time, I have no issue with the fact that history is an art that is susceptible to critique. For instance, historians to this day still debate about what was the X factor that led to the fall of the Western Roman Empire; or why the French Revolution occurred.
Let's also take the time to acknowledge that in the past few years - if not decades, the progression in which arts and humanities have been taught by the academic community has largely took a leftist leaning in its approach; drawing its ethos from social structures and phenomenon such as Critical Theory, Marxism (both political and economic), and Cultural Relativism. What do I mean by all this? Quite simply, leftist theory has over taken the academic institutions over the years to foment control of the faculties in order to reflect a leftist perspective on the world and the past. To anyone with an open mind, it's very clear that this is the case.
It's instances where current political events take over discussion that's not only unrelated to the subject at hand, but is politically solicit and suggestive in nature. It's instances where European history is taught through a profoundly negative lens, where it replaces thousands of years of superior endeavour and pioneering with shame resulting from a heavily biased and cherry picked guilt trip on slavery, colonialism, and conquest. It's instances where perspective and context is deliberately pushed out from lectures and teachings in order to propagate an agenda concurrent with the times in which we live. It's instances where professors do the thinking for you- and leave out any room for debate, or at the very least, differing points of view.
Just now I had a lecture in my European history class about the Age of Exploration around the time of Columbus, and how it changed the mindset of Europeans and how they came to understand the world. Naively hoping to hear a crash course on Spanish and Portuguese navigators and the profundity of their ambitions relevant to the epoch they were in; I was given a heavy set lecture on the ills of human ignorance that came to be (all thanks to the tenants of Critical Theory) associated with that era. Events such as the slave trade and ideas of ownership and conquest quickly overshadowed the brilliance of anything else the subject had been about.
Don't get me wrong, I completely understand that history is never pretty, and that certain practices and beliefs of our ancestors should be taught and looked at with resentment. But when such topics stretch on through the entire lecture (with an indisputable element of guilt and shame) overtaking topics like commerce, settlement, exploration, innovation, achievements, figureheads and so on: then there is a problem. I sometimes think to myself, was history always taught this way? The obvious answer is no, but understanding why the answer is a no takes some research.
When the virtue of perspective is left out from a lecture on let’s say the history of Europe from the 1500s, then that is either dishonest education- or the pursuit of an agenda. Harking back to the topic of the Age of Exploration: the reason the Iberians (Spanish and Portuguese) took on such a cloak of manifest destiny where they set out to explore and conquer new lands, was due partially in part by the Reconquista of their homeland from the Muslim Moors. New found vigour was tapped. Their ports, restored. Their momentum was realized, and thus they set out to regain their prestige through commerce and conquest of the New World. The resulting wars, quarrels, and what we look at today as unsavoury practices such as slavery; despite what the tenants of Critical Theory will teach or hint at, all of those things weren't in their primary scope of interest. They didn't set sail to conquer new lands because they were fascist imperialist scum- they did so because they were constantly in contest with their neighbouring European counterparts. They didn't exploit the natural land of the natives because they were brutal occupants- they colonized and cultivated the land because that is how their way of life was oriented. They didn't set out to evangelize the native population of the Americas because they hated their religion- it was because Christian Europeans loved theirs. I know that these perspectives weren't always the case for when Europeans set out for the New World. Indeed there existed many malevolent people who had more sinister ambitions and were well aware of the scope of their brutality. But it's these examples of perspective that are almost always left out of any of the lectures.
This obvious attempt to consolidate a narrative that the Europeans of yesteryear were unrefined or unenlightened, unlike the modern progressively liberal world of today, is a center point of what Critical Theory and Cultural Marxism is all about. It's like a bad Monty Python sketch when I think about it: how the foundational values that this modern progressive liberal Western world is based upon - is a direct derivative of Western European thought itself. In other words, critiquing Europe's history with an idealistic European invention: it's not only logically fallible, it's also tragic.