Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.

29 November 2016

It seems there is no end to the number of quotes through history that go something like this: "Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it." It's been variously attributed to Edmund Burke, Sara Shepard, Santayana... this is not to say that there is no truth to it. Far from it.

I haven't said much about the election of 2016, in part because my personal life has been upside down and inside out for weeks now, in part due to work, and in part due to the fact that there is so much fucked up stuff going on in the United States, in the global media, and in part in many different communities. When you factor in the fact that fake news is not just a propaganda tactic, it's a growth industry, the time requred to research even the simplest article is prohibitive. Pro-trolls and trollbots on pretty much every social media network don't make things any easier.

Maybe that's the point.

I'm certainly not the only person to notice that the media manipulation happening in 2016 isn't using new strategies or tactics even though they're being used on the Net in addition to print media and television. That people are treating this as a wholly novel phenomen, unprecedented in the western world has been driving me nuts. Did nobody pay attention in history class?

Then I got to thinking...

A statistical outlier though I be, I am still in part the product (or victim, depending on your opinion) of the USian public school system during the early to mid 1990's. Mining my memory field, I recalled something that always struck me as strange: Not once in all those years of school was I ever taught about United States history.

No, really. Never. Everything I know about US history I learned through a combination of reading history books from the library, talking to my grandfather (who fought in World War II), and talking with my grandmother (who worked in a foundry making anti-aircraft ammunition in World War II). In grades 7 and 8 (middle school) history as a class was not offered. There weren't any history classes I could take even as electives. In high school (grades 9 through 12) I had to take European history every year which covered varying spans of time (ending between 1850 and 1895) and in different degrees of complexity. American history was offered as an Advanced Placement course my senior year, but due to the fact that I was in the sci-tech education track (thanks to Project RIGOR (which I'll probably rant about in another post)) I wasn't eligible to take it. During undergrad (the rest of the 90's) I took one semester of history... you guessed it, European history that wrapped up in the year 1850.ev. Sure, I could have taken more history courses, but because I was a comp.sci major they wouldn't have counted toward my degree. When you're paying by the credit-hour you have to consider what you sign up for.

No formal instruction about the 19th Amendment of the Constitution or the battles surrounding sufferage. Nothing about the Stock Market Crash of '29 or the Great Depression. Nothing about World War I, or the social, political, or economic factors surrounding it. Nothing about the Holocaust, the attack on Pearl Harbor, or World War II. Nothing about Korea or the long process of desegregation or Vietnam (sixteen year old wannabes claiming to have fought in it notwithstanding (...your guess is as good as mine)). Certainly nothing about the civil rights movement or the social movements of the 1960's (which weren't all they were cracked up to be) or the crash of '87 even though we lived through it.

So... no. It wasn't that nobody paid attention in history class. It's more plausible that it was never touched on in history class, if history was offered at all. Statistically speaking, there have to be schools out there that teach the progression of European history into early USian history to modern USian history... the schools I went to cannot be unique in how they did (or more accurately, did not do) things.

Unfortunately, sometimes school isn't the way lessons are (re-)learned. Sometimes the only way to learn them is the hard way.

Because we forget.