Being Objective in Teaching History
Teaching history can be rather challenging. For one thing, there is so much of it. It is being made every day. Then there is the fact that history can be controversial. That is where objectivity needs to come in.
Objective means putting personal feelings aside and stating the facts. That can be very hard especially when it involves an emotional topic. But the most benefits can come from taking the objective standpoint. It allows all sides to be seen from all angles without putting more weight on one over the other due to prejudice or personal preferences. Knowing that you can see how hard it can be to present history in an objective manner.
The Importance of Being Objective
Why should you care about being objective? It can’t hurt anything can it? The truth is that not only is not studying history a guaranteed way to repeat, so is refusing to be objective when learning and teaching it. This can often cause repeat much worse than the original mistake.
Objectivity opens doors that otherwise remain closed. It allows the person see beyond what they have been presented over the years to a more pure aspect of the truth. What is presented as truth and fact is not necessarily the truth especially when relying on media and one channel as a source. If truth is what you are looking for and want to teach, you have to put aside personal feelings and be objective.
It can be dangerous if you don’t.
Dangers of Bias Teaching
What could possibly be dangerous about teaching a highly opinionated version of history? Shall I mention the Holocaust? Teaching how much Jews had wronged the Germans and how the rest of the world had treated them poorly led to one of the biggest massacres of human life ever recorded. Bias teaching can be deadly.
Constant bias teaching leads to lies perpetuated as truth. Why teach history if the truth is not being taught? If that is the case, chaos and anarchy will arise. All of the tragedies that have occurred throughout history have been enhanced due to bias teachings.
Bias teaching takes the truth and twists it to fit an agenda. That means dangerous doors are being opened without a second thought. Foundations are being laid that could have monumental consequences in the years to come.
This doesn’t mean one has to accept certain beliefs no matter on what side of the coin it can be, but the learner can make their own decisions based on unbiased teaching. Bias teaching does not leave the option of the learner taking ownership of their decisions. That is very dangerous. History sadly will then repeat itself.
Tips on Being Objective
So, how can you be objective? I’m not saying it is easy, but it can be done if you make a determined effort to accomplish it. Here are a few tips that can help you be more objective in teaching history to others.
Read Multiple Perspectives Before Teaching
No matter what your stance is on a subject, gather material on different sides of the issue and study them. This can include books and documentaries. Read more than one stance on the far side of an issue as different authors can present the same material in a different manner.
The more you read, the more you’ll understand all the viewpoints. Understanding them even if you don’t agree with them helps you to teach the different perspectives fairly.
Be Open Minded - Challenge Your Own Views
When you are attempting to teach history in an unbiased manner, you have be open minded. Disagreeing with a view is one thing. Dismissing it is something entirely different. Read the opposing side without the pre-determined decisions on it. Try to see the subject for the first time.
You should even try to challenge your own views. Question your stance on the matter. It might even be good to have a discussion (note: discussion is not the same thing as an argument) on the subject with someone who doesn’t have the same views as you. Or have someone play devil’s advocate with you.
There have been times when I didn’t change my mind on the subject after such interactions, but I got a better understanding of the other side. I still felt they were wrong, but the understanding of them helped me to communicate about the subject better.
Remember that the goal is not to change your mindset though it can happen once you get all the facts before you. If nothing else, you just get a better understanding so you can be a more effective teacher.
Have a Third Party Present
Another way to help you be unbiased is to have a third party present as you teach. Make sure they are one who is more on the fence of the topic or even on the far end of where you believe but also have an open mind. They can help you stay objective and even help to challenge your viewpoints. Debate can be great. Arguments not so much. Be careful who you choose for this role.
Do You Study Other Points of View on Topics?
Be Willing to Explore
In a way this is redundant to having an open mind, but in reality it is a vital part of that.You have to have an open-mind in order to explore. Teaching an unbiased stance means stepping out of your comfort zone. You need to explore the other sides and get into their minds.
Again, you don’t have to change your stance, but you need to understand the opposite side. It also helps you improve your own arguments for what you believe.
One thing you need to be in order to teach anything objectively is to be humble. To be honest, that rules out everyone, but what I mean is that you need to be at last attempting to be humble. Realize that no matter what your stance that at least a part of it might be wrong. That way you won’t be too confrontational on the subject and can be more unbiased.