Every person has an obligation to seek the truth and speak it. One of the most important areas for doing this is in teaching our children where they come from; their history. Sadly I have to concur with Chesterton who wrote in 1913 “Our historians lie much more than our journalists.”
Baring this in mind a home educating mother like me has to tread with care through the historical books recommended on many curricula sites to ensure I don’t impart black legend or serious mistakes to my children. They have the right to the truth and I want to make sure that to the best of my ability they get it.
The minefield of history books and stories is a difficult one to navigate. Old books can be just as bad or worse than newer ones and I am constantly trying to be sure that what I might expose the children to in the way of ‘living fiction’ or ‘living books’ of a more factual basis are in fact true to the history they are telling.
The fact is that as Chesterton and his friend Belloc commented on at the beginning of the 20th century that there is far too much anti-Catholicism in the retelling of history. Black legend is told as though it actually happened. Huge chunks of what actally happened, much of it fascinating and useful to know, gets left out of the books. Fortunately there are writers who have tried to redress the balance and there are many non-Catholic writers who have done a better job of it that some Catholic ones (ironically). The minefield is made more difficult in that some Catholic writers in a reaction to the black legends have whitewashed the truth at times.
So I have to navigate the many books and the different voices of history to work out what to teach my children. I feel like I have to have read ahead and in depth to spot the pitfalls of writer’s dishonesty and prejudice. It is patently absurd that people like Henry VIII and his mass murdering daughter Elizabeth I can come out the the books as shiny bright people while the unpleasant but nowhere near as bad as either her father or half sister Mary Tudor gets called ‘bloody’. I have seen those who deny the evidence that many of those Mary had put to death had indeed committed treason in trying to keep her from her throne, while at the same time imputing treason quite dishonestly on St Edmund Campion, one of the greatest of the English martyrs.
I want my children to learn how the medieval monasteries were the leaders in great inventions that helped the world such as the water wheel and made breakthroughs in medicine, not least in the proper care of the sick that eradicated leprosy in England.
I want them to learn about the Guilds and the beekeepers as well as the famous figures of the time. I agree with Chesterton’s observation that too many popular histories don’t seem to mention the population at all.
I am having a good and careful look at what is around for the children; but I want them to have the whole story not just part of it and certainly not dishonest parts.
What’s a home ed mother to do I wonder.