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History is written by the winners

May 21, 2010 - Nikki Younk
The first thing I learned in many of my college history classes was that “History is written by the winners.” Seriously, I’ve had it hammered into my head so many times, that I can’t even say the words out loud.

That familiar phrase came rushing back to me this week, as I was reading reports of the Texas Board of Education’s proposal to revise school children’s history books. According to the New York Times, the board is seeking to emphasize conservative values in the roles of capitalist enterprise, the military, Christianity, and modern Republican political figures.

Don’t get me wrong. All of these things had and still have important places in American history.

I just hope that other topics don’t get de-emphasized. Yes, the Founding Fathers identified as Christian. However, America then and now has included people of all (or no) religions. Also, Democratic political leaders have had just as much impact on history as Republican political leaders.

American history as we know it is already skewed. History is never objective. It carries with it the perspectives and prejudices of its writer, and sometimes, its editor.

Today, we view American history as a positive progress of mostly European immigrants taming a wild land. We seldom hear from the Native American point of view, which would likely paint American history as a negative tale of outside invasion. Why do we overwhelmingly hear the European colonists’ take on the story? Because they were the winners and they wrote the history books.

In other words, yes, “History is written by the winners.”

No matter what the Texas School Board does, history books will carry a prejudice. If the board chooses to go along with its plans, the books will carry even more of a prejudice.



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