The Place of History in Multicultural Education, pp. 4 of 15

Similarly, in history education, hegemonic, institutionalised narratives and national memories are considered “normal” (and sometimes static) with the history of the “other” expressed, at times, as a footnote and with that selected as of inferior worth. As explained succinctly by James W. Loewen (Loewen, 1995), the collective conscience of a triumphalist United States (US) history internalised selected cultures and nations as inferior to the US or white US. A proclivity not specific to the US, similar inclinations are noted too where the objectives of writing and teaching history ranges from unabashed triumphalism of alleged exceptionalism to consolidating a fragile identity for national survival such as the much vaunted “Singapore Story” narrative (Baildon & Affandi, 2014). Critically in such national narratives there are the designated “us” versus “them” narratives (Al-Haj, Spring 2005; Foster, 2014, p. 23). History books and textbooks do contain their own designated “bad guys” such as the “injuns” (Native Americans) in US (Loewen, 1995) or the portrayal of oppressed groups as “happy campers”: foils to the assumed inherent “superiority” or magnanimity of the dominant groups.

Essentially, it is about nationalistic mythmaking (Mearsheimer, 2012, p. 22) which sometimes suggests or cultivates the obscene “truth” of certain groups viewed through a prism of “deficient orientation” and thus as somehow culturally deficient. Such interpretations are “oppressive forms of thinking where the stronger or more powerful entity views others as inferior” (Klein, 2006, p. 16): an alleged “natural” inferior state and therefore cannot be changed. Both prisms are deleteriously toxic and profoundly racist but intoxicatingly popular as they simplify complex narratives and experiences while elevating power embedding, controlled “truth” as accepted, institutionalised narratives in both national and international arenas. The differentiated impacts on homogenous or diverse classrooms do not differ widely but embed a narrative that attempts to replicate systemic, societal power structures that may exhibit “soft forms” of bigotry but can also assume all the accumulative, debilitating effects of low expectations, self-fulfilling prophecies and continual acceptance of things (Allport, 1979, pp. 142-162) because they simply “are” instead of insisting on “why”?

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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