Sugar-coating history is not so sweet

Photo by Analyn Cuarto
Photo by Analyn Cuarto

Not telling the truth about history dooms us to repeat it

By Jessica Berget, Opinions Editor

A photo of a children’s history textbook has gone viral lately because of the way it portrays European settlement and colonization. For those who haven’t seen it, the textbook claims “When the European settlers arrived, they needed a land to live in. The First Nations agreed to move to different areas to make room for the new settlements.” Not only is this a complete fabrication of history, it trivializes Indigenous history and ignore the genocide and brutal colonization of Indigenous peoples. I believe that if we don’t teach people—especially children—the reality of the atrocities that happened in history and ignore them completely, we are damning ourselves to repeat them.

It is important for people to learn these things as early as they can. For children, this is the time that they start to develop empathy and the ability to think critically about the world around them. Therefore, it is essential for them to learn about the injustices of history and humanity.

We can’t shield children from these things because they are going to learn or find out about it eventually, so it is best that this kind of sensitive material is taught to them with maturity and honesty. Kids are smarter than they are given credit for. They can take in this kind of information and learn from it, and I think the people who say this kind of material is too sensitive for kids to learn about are a part of the problem. I’m not saying they should all be taught about the details of the rape and genocide of the Indigenous peoples, but a general overview of the history, colonization, and assimilation will provide them with an insight of how these things happen and how we can prevent them. If we are not aware of the mistakes we have made in the past, how can we prevent them from happening again?

This isn’t the first case of history being literally rewritten in textbooks. In another popular post that was circulating social media, a photo was shown of a textbook that claimed that African people came to America as workers, instead of slaves. This is a subtle but very crucial way that history can be manipulated into something that seems harmless, but has a lot of significant history behind it that we have to unpack and understand.

By changing the details of something so significant, the event loses its meaning and glosses over the colonization and genocide of an entire culture. Only until we start presenting history with the reality of these events can we start to prevent these things from happening again.