‘Battlefield maps’ show continent under attack from hostile invaders.
See, maps have a problem. They appear neutral, objective, authoritative. But that’s exactly all that they’re not. Each map reflects the many choices the cartographer has made, consciously or not, both in terms of content and form.
And so, without us even noticing it, maps can confirm bias, entrench prejudice and perpetuate injustice.
In the US, it’s often taught as a heroic struggle for freedom against the tyrannical British Empire, which was unfairly taxing the colonists without giving them representation in government (though in some high school classes, and certainly at the college level, it’s taught with more nuance).
But how is the American Revolution taught in the UK and in other countries around the world?
“The war ended on April 30, 1975, with the fall of Saigon — now Ho Chi Minh City — to the Communist north, two years after the withdrawal of U.S. ground troops.
“The moment was one of realization and appreciation as his daughter explained in her child-like way what Ryan conveys to his high school students: Interpreting history is hard. He then posed his final question that’s the source of heated and tense debates every year.
“Do you think we should celebrate Columbus Day in our country?”
And with a simple innocence yet profound insight that belies her age, the first-grader answered, “Yes, but we should tell the truth. Not everyone liked Columbus.””
“Eleventh-grade U.S. history teacher Samantha Manchac is concerned about the new materials and is already drawing up her lesson plans for the coming year. She teaches at The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, a public school in Houston.
“The first lesson she says she’ll give her kids is how textbooks can tell different versions of history. “We are going to utilize these textbooks to some extent, but I also want you to be critical of the textbooks and not take this as the be-all and end-all of American history,” she imagines telling her new students.”
“Perhaps Fisher offers the nation an opportunity to divorce, once and for all, memory from history. History may be an attempt to memorialize and preserve the past, but it is not memory; memories can serve as primary sources, but they do not stand alone as history. A history is essentially a collection of memories, analyzed and reduced into meaningful conclusions—but that collection depends on the memories chosen.”
“As Balkan countries prepare to mark the start of the first world war, history books show widely different interpretations.
“As the centenary approaches, there is little hope that rival ethnic and political groups in the Balkans will find a shared view, said history professor Zijad Sehic. ‘We will never have agreement on this issue. The views are too far apart. There will never be a common truth.'”
I have used this article in class. Here is the adapted handout I’ve used in class.