Collective amnesia


FTLComm - Tisdale - Thursday, June 7, 2007

The media always likes a good story about some poor soul who turns up not knowing who he is, or was, and often, is lost forever in his, or her world, devoid of a known past. Wikipedia does a nice job of discussing the condition and the six or so variations of the condition. As we all grow older, we are constantly aware of the terror of "losing it" and the associated trauma of senility or Alzhiemers. With this remarkable awareness of the need to remember, I am particularly puzzled at the social phenomena that has been affecting our society for almost two full decades, perhaps even more.

It was not educators alone who abandoned concern about history, nor is it easy to pinpoint the exact era, but in the 1970s there was a trend within the universities toward inter-disciplinary approaches to academic study. Our Saskatchewan Department of Education struck a committee to develop social studies that would better prepare students to cope with the world into which each student must eventually engage. The first course to be developed was grade ten social studies, "Man a course of studies." This course was introduced into Saskatchewan schools and became social studies 10, a 20 and Canadian stuties 30 rounded out the "new curriculum" social studies. History 10, 20, and 30 were what had been social studies prior to the introduction of these courses, but few schools could afford to offer two versions of the same credit and alas, formal history instruction became sadly, a thing of the past in Saskatchewan schools.

Elementary and middle school years gradually saw the formal study of Canadian and world history vanish and the emphasis move toward studies of culture and human geography. My personal bias was that the pressure to ignore the annoying facts of history came largely from the need for business to assert itself in school curriculum and the enormously powerful influence of the chamber of commerce on curriculum development. That opinion is only that, an opinion, for indeed I really don't know who exactly to blame, but I do know that the net result was the creation of supposedly educated people, who have virtually no awareness of history, or even the most important recent events that have shaped this world and our society.

In effect we have created a form of social amnesia. The schools did not drop the ball, for indeed they are, and always have been, a reflection of the society in which they exist and this world in which you are now a citizen, is dramatically unaware of all history. Our society, has in fact, turned to popular culture, movies and television, to keep our collective awareness of the past alive, but that is truly a dangerous concept.

With Americans dominating popular culture, it appears that World War I and World War II were won by the United States of America and its valiant heroes, when in fact, of the five years of World War I Americans were only involved in the last two years and when it comes to World War II, Americans saw action for three years of the six year long world conflict. The movie industry had Ben Affleck's character in Pearl Harbor fly a bomber in before the war, shoot down Japanese bombers, then fly with General Doolittle against Tokyo. Pay close attention to even US conflicts like Vietnam in their movies and you will learn little about what happened. The most accurate attitude toward Vietnam was actually portrayed in the Korean War based movie and TV series M.A.S.H.

Clearly, the correct way to study history is in a formal history course, where the rules of research and historical reference applies. But, the only history a student gets in high school is interdisciplinary muddled up stuff that may, or may not, cover anything of consequence. Feudalism, colonialism, crusades and the unification of Germany and Italy are unlikely to be considered. It is no wonder that politicians can use catch phrases to scorn, or trumpet, a cause because they are talking to voters who don't know the difference. The whole concept of democracy is based upon an informed population and so you see, the concept is in deep deep trouble.

Just to see if you are among those who are unfit to voice your political opinion in an election, here is a simple multiple choice test. This is not a scientific thing, but merely presented as a tool to show you, that to make informed choices, you really need to be informed. The correct answers to the test are at the bottom.

1. Joseph Stalin:
a. started the Russian Revolution
b. died in 1948
c. was the Soviet Union's leader in World War II
d. b and c
2. Adolph Hitler:
a. was a German
b. was an Austrian
c. was carried to power by a majority of German people
d. b and c
3. The United States of America
a. was a solid member of the League of Nations
b. invaded Vietnam under a United Nations mandate
c. invaded Iraq under a United Nations mandate
d. none of the above
4. During World War I which of the following countries was not part of the alliance?
a. German
b. Austria
c. Turkey
d. Yugoslavia
5. During World War II which of the following countries was not a part of the Axis nations?
a. German
b. Italy
c. Japan
d. Yugoslavia
6. In 1948 which of the following did not become a nation?
a. People's Republic of China
b. Israel
c. Pakistan
d. Union of Soviet Socialists Republic
7. Which of the following countries was not a member of the Warsaw Pact?
a. Denmark
b. Poland
c. Romania
d. Bulgaria
8. In the years following World War II was prime minister of England
a. Lloyd George
b. Winston Churchill
c. Robert Walpole
d. Neville Chamberland
9. Which of the following was not involved in both World War I and World War II?
a. William Lyon MacKenzie King
b. John George Diefenbaker
c. Lester Bowes Pearson
d. Sir Wilfrid Laurier
10. Which of the following treaties does not relate to Saskatchewan First Nations people?
a. Treaty Number 4
b. Treaty Number 5
c. Treaty Number 6
d. Treaty Number 7
11. British Columbia became a province in the Dominion of Canada in:
a. 1870
b. 1871
c. 1873
d. 1905
12. The United States of America dropped its second nuclear bomb during a war on the city of:
a. Hiroshima
b. Nagasaki
c. Tokyo
d. Kyoto
13. Karl Marx is best known for having written about:
a. socialism
b. communism
c. fascism
d. capitalism
14. Benito Mussolini is best known for his leader ship in the movement called
a. nationalism
b. communism
c. fascism
d. capitalism
15. Until 1948 Pakistan was part of
a. India
b. the British Commonwealth
c. the League of Nations
d. the United Nations
16. The Church of England was established by:
a. Henry II
b. Henry VIII
c. Charles II
d. Elizabeth I
17. The Ottoman Empire operated out of what is today:
a. Saudi Arabia
b. Iraq
c. Iran
d. Turkey
18. Columbus is the man credited with discovering America, he was born in:
a. Madrid
b. Genoa
c. Venice
d. Valencia
19. The first humans to invade North America came from:
a. Norway
b. Mongolia
c. Spain
d. France
20. The people called the Celts are found it:
a. Scotland
b. Scotland and Ireland
c. Scotland, Ireland and Wales
d. England
21. Gunpowder was invented by the:
a. Americans
b. Germans
c. Chinese
d. English
22. The first human to orbit the earth in a space vehicle was:
a. John Glenn
b. Allan Shepherd
c. Neil Armstrong
d. Yuri Gagarin
23. Though the Industrial revolution spread around the world it first began because of developments in agriculture and the development of investment capital in:
a. German
b. United Kingdom
c. Russia
d. United States of America
24. The movement to establish a Jewish state is known as:
a. El Faydah
b. Irgun
c. Kibbutzim
d. Zionism
25. English common law was established by
a. Henry II
b. Henry VIII
c. Charles II
d. Elizabeth I

1. d, 2. b, 3. d, 4. d, 5. d, 6. d, 7. d, 8. b, 9. d, 10. d, 11. b, 12. b, 13. b, 14. c, 15. a, 16. b, 17. d, 18. b, 19. b, 20. c, 21. c, 22. d, 23. b, 24. d, 25. a

Let's face it we all could use a little brushing up on our awareness of the past so if you got 10 of these right, you just need to read a little more. If you only got 5 or less, maybe you better pass on going to vote in the next election and if you got more than 15 you must be a constant reader of Ensign.

Timothy W. Shire


Return to Ensign

This page is a story posted on Ensign, a daily web site offering a variety of material from scenic images, political commentary, information and news. This publication is the work of Faster Than Light Communications . If you would like to comment on this story or you wish to contact the editor of these sites please send us email.

Editor : Timothy W. Shire
Faster Than Light Communication
Box 1776, Tisdale, Saskatchewan, Canada, S0E 1T0
306 873 2004