Human Rights in History Teaching Essay

September 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

One of the foremost aspects of how history is being taught to students in Western countries is the fact that teachers usually stress out the full objectiveness of how they evaluate the significance of a particular historical event in question.

Such point of view, however, cannot be referred to as such that represents an undeniable truth-value.

The reason for this is quite apparent – the teaching of history cannot be impartial, by definition, because by adopting an evaluative stance, in regards to the discursive meaning of historical events, historians necessarily act on behalf those who, due to their socially dominant status, are being in a position to define the qualitative essence of ongoing sociopolitical discourses.

In his article, Zinn (1990) explores the validity of this suggestion at length. According to the author, there is always an element of perceptional biasness to how historians address their professional duties, because by analyzing the significance of historical events, they never cease remaining humans, who assess just about every type of impersonal information through the lenses of their personal worldviews,

“Everyone is biased, whether they know it or not, in possessing fundamental goals, purposes, and ends” (p. 51). To illustrate the full legitimacy of his line of argumentation, in this respect, Zinn refers to the 1914 Ludlow Massacre, when National Guards killed 25 coal miners, who were holding a peaceful demonstration, while demanding a raise in their salaries.

Despite the fact that Ludlow Massacre is being considered the most striking example of how, throughout the course of the 20th century, the representatives of the American ruling elite used to defend their corporate interests, at the expense of denying workers an opportunity to advance in life, this event is being rarely mentioned in American history books.

Instead, these books contain lengthy elaborations on how one of American richest capitalists John D. Rockefeller (the owner of Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, which refused to consider coal miners’ plea), contributed to the well-being of America.

According to Zinn, this alone serves as a perfect example of how history can be deliberately distorted by historians, who act on behalf of rich in powerful.

Therefore, in order for the teaching of history to be more or less objective, it should cease being concerned with glorifying historical figures, which in their real lives were known to act in a morally dubious manner.

Instead, the teaching of history should be concerned with encouraging students to think how the mistakes of the past could be avoided in the future, “We do need to learn history, the kind that… inspires a new generation to resist the madness of governments trying to carve the world and our minds into their spheres of influence” (p. 66). The author’s suggestion, in this respect, can hardly be argued with.

Unfortunately, there appear to be no objective preconditions for this to be the case any time soon. The reason for this is simple – despite the fact that Western societies praise themselves on being thoroughly democratic, this is far from being the case.

Quite on the contrary – as of today, these societies can be well discussed in terms of ideologically oppressive dictatorships.

This is because the hawks of political correctness in governmental offices succeeded in creating the situation when citizens simply fear to make independent inquiries into history, as it may well result in them being accused of a ‘crime of historical revisionism’ and consequently sentenced to spend time in jail – just as it happened to British historian David Irving.

In its turn, this explains the public controversy, caused by the broadcasting of ‘The Valor and the Horror’ series on Canadian television.

Apparently, the self-appointed ‘guardians of public morality’ did not like the fact that the series’ depiction of what accounted for the actual realities of Canada’s involvement in WW2 was spared of any moralistic overtones, as it is being usually the case with the majority of American and Canadian movies about WW2. According to Dick (1992), the director’s (Brian McKenna) only ‘guilt’ was the fact that he proved himself intellectually honest enough to represent the depicted events in an ideologically unengaged manner – hence, the absence of an emotionally charged pathos in the series, “The series was conspicuously ill-disposed towards the military leadership… their incompetence… and the immorality of their decisions” (p. 254).

However, even though that ‘The Valor and the Horror’ was primarily criticized for being historically inaccurate, it is specifically the fact that it cannot serve as a tool of ideological indoctrination about WW2, which caused the series to fall out of favor with ‘independent’ critics.

This once again shows that, contrary to what the majority of ordinary Americans and Canadians believe, their understanding of history is highly subjective, because while learning about historical events in schools, colleges and universities, they had no choice but to reflect upon the significance of these events in a thoroughly supervised manner.

The reason why the representatives of ruling elites, in charge of designing social policies, pay a particularly close attention to how citizens study history is that, by keeping ordinary people ideologically indoctrinated, they are able to ensure that their social, political and economic dominance remains unchallenged.

Moreover, this also allows rich and powerful to utilize ordinary citizens as a ‘cannon meat’, in times when the protection of their corporate interests in different parts of the world requires a military involvement.

According to the famous Orwellian saying – ‘those who control the present control the past, and those who control the past, control the future’.

After all, people who believe that the Allied involvement in WW2 was solely concerned with the ‘protection of democracy’, will be more likely to support American oil-corporations in their strive to take control of Iranian oil fields, as well, because Iranians do not seem to be overly enthusiastic about celebrating the values of American-styled democracy, while preferring to keep their oil to themselves.

Therefore, it is very important for people who study history to be able reflect upon what they are being taught critically.

In history, nothing just ‘happens’ out of the blue, because the significance of just about every historical event can be well discussed within the context of what account for three major goals of every country’s existence: a) economic/geopolitical expansion, b) protection of internal stability, c) impairment of the internal stability of competing/neighboring countries.

The very fact that, as opposed to what it is being the case with ‘human resources’, natural resources are not self-renewable, naturally causes the flow of history to reflect the spatial subtleties of a never-ending war of everybody against everybody.

In the arena of international politics, as well as in the arena of domestic politics, there are only winners and losers. And, it is specifically winners who write history.

I believe that this conclusion is being thoroughly consistent with the paper’s initial thesis, as to the fact that there is indeed no such thing as an impartial history.


Dick, E. (1992). The ‘Valor and the Horror’ continued: Do we still want our history on television? Retrieved from https://archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/view/11901/12854

Zinn, H. (1990). The use and abuse of history. In H. Zinn (Ed.), Declarations of Independence (pp. 48-66). New York: HarperCollins.

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