Sunday, November 8, 2015

How Objective Is Our History?

Anything  that is written is done with a bias.  Historians admit this rather obvious reality. Some biases will help one get closer to the truth than others. One danger is that history, for the most part,  is written by the victors and written by the most favored in society.
Korea is conflicted at present by the governments desire to control who writes the history books used in the secondary schools. Schools can choose the books they want but from 2017 all schools must use the books selected by the government. Present government does not like the left-leaning, American bashing, and pro-North Korean  language. How much that is the case is a matter of debate. In the Peace Weekly a  history professor, emeritus, gives his opinion on the matter by answering a series of questions.  

History is the combination of fact and interpretation. There is much room for interpretation, and this gives life to what we read. We don't have any established theories unless it is controlled.   

To the question, whether we have any international standards to go by, he rules out being influenced by ideology or politics. With the United Nations, history is turned over to the historians. Most of the developed countries do not get involved with the history books used and turn this over to those  writing the history. Those using the books have freedom to  select the ones they deem the best. When the government does the selecting, we are approaching totalitarianism.   

He reminds us  the books considered left-leaning now in use were approved by the government, and if there is a left-leaning, the Education ministry is at fault and not the editors of the books.   

When history has to be approved by the government, we have a black-and-white  camera with pictures that are in color. History is not to be interpreted by a certain class of society or written to  imbue patriotism in the citizens. Danger is high that, controlled by the government, it will be written to build up love for the country. 

A Christian way of looking at history would see it with the glasses of love and peace and the universal extension of  fundamental rights, which would not be much different from the way the historical academy would see it. If we have a love for humanity, peace and the  pursuit of happiness  as values, they will  help in the  writing of history: against war and on the side of the poor. We have to keep in mind the universal common values: a proper view of the  world and life requires  a universal outlook on values that serve as our starting point for interpretation and teaching.

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