The temptation to focus on the wealth of bad news which is easily available to each of us whenever we wish it is a particularly strong temptation amongst those of us who blog. Indeed, the world will always be full of negativity, regrettable circumstances, social injustice, wars, and abuses of power among many so long as we channel our attention in that direction. It might not do us any harm at all in thinking about world events with a different perspective.
Allow me, if you would to provide a personal anecdote from my own life to illustrate what it is I mean. Last night, I finally got a chance to look at the textbook assigned for the U.S. History class I will be teaching and, as any good teacher would, I read through the first chapter that will be assigned for my students. Having developed a skeptical viewpoint towards all things over the course of my life, I have to say that I went into the endeavor expecting to be disappointed. After finishing up with the text, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised.
The field of history, I am glad to report, has made some very positive strides in the recent past. The press reports the advances made by science and medicine on a nearly dayly basis, while neglecting the progress made in other disciplines. Tremendous advances have been made in historical scholarship, particularly in the direction of veracity, rather than mythology. I have to tell you that I almost feel cheated, by comparison. The version of history I read and I'm sure many of you read is shockingly insufficient, not so much wrong as it is incomplete. In times past, large gaps in the historical narrative were neglected, crucial events were not linked together in a cohesive nature, and the same conventional explanations for complex matters were proposed. It is no wonder students were confused in the process. It is no wonder that history appeared distant or completely unrelated to the events of today. I'm not sure whether to blame lazy scholarship or that better sources of information have become more readily available.
History, the record of the past, has no bias to left or right, conservative or liberal. It simply is. Truth ought to be independent of spin or political bias. We know that history has often been hijacked to suit the agenda and ulterior motive of the powerful over the years. In reading through the chapter, I happily report that whomever wrote the material did well to make a point to avoid politicizing. History in its pure form is a far more pragmatic reality than we might even realize.