Re: Ch. 2 - 1493: The True Importance of Christopher Columbus
I have not got the book, but will offer some responses on these interesting questions anyway. These questions are central to the Booktalk current fiction discussion of George Orwell’s 1984, especially his profound remark that whoever controls the past thereby controls the present and the future. That is why authoritarian regimes place a strong emphasis on censorship and mind control.
These questions about the purpose of History highlight the political conflict between the purpose of national identity and the purpose of understanding reality. In general, progressives are more aligned to understanding reality, while conservatives are aligned to national identity expressed through a dominant stable mythology.
But that dichotomy is not a simple clash between seeing critical understanding as good while disparaging traditional dominant identity as evil, although that is how some progressive historians depict it. Critical thinking tends to be negative and passive, while identity thinking is positive and active, seeking dynamic models for emulation.
A critical academic outlook towards history will emphasise social identity and class analysis, valuing collective identity and the experience of subaltern groups, whereas a traditional propaganda approach to history will cultivate national pride, and in the case of the USA, focus on the individual liberty of pioneers, celebrating the heroism of leaders.
That debate taps the complex dialectic of freedom and equality and how the individual relates to the group, themes that are not amenable to any simple settled answers.
Climate change is a key interest of mine. One feature of school history is that it does not address current politics, because recent issues are far from settled, so the curriculum only covers events up to about half a century ago. For example with climate change, it seems likely to me that neither emission reduction nor climate denial, the two sides of the current political climate controversy, will generate acceptable answers, so the politics remains fluid and uncertain.
The settled science of climate change has not generated equally settled answers about what to do about it, despite the propaganda efforts of advocates. Climate issues are complex, and teaching them as settled can generate a dangerous bigotry and polarisation, with acceptance of myths as fact, generating contempt for people with different views.
Looking at past issues, such as the European conquest of the world, teaching history as triumph or disaster generates social polarisation and a dangerous lack of respect for those who are cast on the bad side.
After 1492, the immediate events included the Protestant Reformation beginning with Luther in 1517, the high Florentine Renaissance led by geniuses like Leonardo, and then the heliocentric cosmology of Copernicus published in 1543. For all these events, the discovery of the New World was a disruptive and transformative core enabling factor, opening an empirical attitude that cast doubt on traditional flat earth authority and encouraged innovation.
Really? I have long understood that the reverse is the case, since the appalling effect of syphilis was first documented in Europe in 1495. But https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_syphilis
shows that there is some uncertainty, even if the Columbus theory is most plausible.
The main dissonance in this case is between achievement and suffering. Traditionally, Americans were proud of the pioneering achievements that built the greatest nation on earth, and saw the destruction of indigenous culture with all its torment and trauma and tears as a necessary and inevitable casualty of economic progress. Columbus is the great hero of the age of discovery. I am not sure what you mean by believing inconsistencies, but generally the problem is that people do not like hearing bad stories about people they admire.
Climate denial is the greatest cognitive dissonance, since it involves the belief that technology can deliver economic growth while rejecting the scientific method upon which technological progress is based.
The next worse dissonance in my view is the idea that emission reduction can restore a stable climate, when in fact emission reduction is likely to remove less than 10% of the dangerous carbon from the air. Other methods are needed urgently to get rid of the rest of the global warming potential but investment is constrained by the dominant myth of emission reduction alone.
The climate of disharmony generated by these rival dissonances is generating a rising tide of hysteria.