By Craig Funston
Three of my favourite magazine subscriptions are Canada’s History, British Columbia History, and Christian History. They are all about, you guessed it, history. Obviously, I cherish any study of history, and find simply sitting down and reading these magazines very refreshing and relaxing.
I read them from cover to cover as soon as I get them; I even read the covers.
I have often envisioned starting up a magazine that is akin to the afore-mentioned, but the focus would be on the history of Alberta. I would call it either Alberta’s History or My Alberta. It would be a combination of British Columbia History and British Columbia Magazine, an emphasis of the past and a touch of the present, if you will.
I think there’s a place for such a magazine here in Alberta (unless there is one already that I don’t know about). It would delve into the origins and events from the earliest known settlements–looking into such things as the migration patterns of pioneers, background to places, celebrities with Alberta roots, and a whole host of other issues that make Alberta Alberta. (No, I’m not stuttering.)
In other words, every aspect of past components would be examined—religion, ethnics, politics, employment, and natural resources. I’m sure there would be more, but I’m just suggesting these for starters. I would find it both fascinating and illuminating, whether I was a mere reader or the actual editor.
They (whoever “they” are) say that history is boring. That’s bunk. Maybe history books are boring; or history teachers are boring; even history documentaries are boring. However, I would even challenge those notions, of course, because my life is intertwined with those misconceptions, whether as a teacher, reader, or viewer, of history.
But apart from my own bias, let me proclaim here loudly and clearly that history itself is not boring.
One of the more serious issues in my teaching career has been my personal renunciation of the current tripe found in Social Studies textbooks, both at the intermediate and junior high levels. The blatant revisionism, the touchy-feely balderdash that passes as history, is quite shocking.
When facts are de-emphasized and opinions are over-emphasized, it’s time for me to move on to Knitting 101.
A good grasp of history is crucial for every discipline, every segment of society. Whether you’re looking at economics, race relations, primary resources, employment, and immigration—just for starters—you need to know your history. We are the result of our individual and collective past, and we mustn’t forget it.
How was it phrased, “Those who do not learn from the past are destined to repeat it”?
While we must learn from the past, we don’t need to live there. There is no time machine to take us back to those uncluttered and uncharted days. I wish there was, but there isn’t. However, we learn lessons from the past, apply them to the present, and head for the future—armed with an intelligent grasp of life itself.
I just came off a weekend of seven very inspiring lessons on history. Well, inspiring and perspiring: Perspiring because of the repeated themes of wars, bloodshed, tribalism, and ego trips. Among other things, we heard the sad commentary on the race issue—the only race (the human one), of course—and how divisive and cohesive we really are.
Ethnic supremacy, for instance, is not the sole domain of the white man. There is no “white privilege” in history, though we will be told that repeatedly in our curriculum. Call your colour or name your nation, all people are prone to despotism and domination. This nonsense of the evil white race and poor non-white underdog is hokum. We’re all villains and we’re all victims, or more accurately, we’re a combination of both.
Modern textbooks will not teach that perspective, of course, but I won’t repeat my rant why we should give them a wide berth. I fear for the students of today, especially those who have limited grey matter to develop analytical skills, accompanied by limited motivation for research skills. They will not learn from the past because they are unaware of it, or if they do know it, they avoid it.
Literally hundreds of questions come to mind as I write this (in an Alberta context). Was anyone here before the so-called First Nations? Did the Great Flood produce the massive ice sheets that covered most of Alberta? Are there Roman and Irish coins in Central Alberta, as there are in Iowa? Do we have pyramids like they do in…Georgia? There’s a New Dayton, so where’s the old one? What do Alberta, Lake Louise, and Caroline have in common?
Sounds to me like fodder for another great historical magazine.