Is there are history curriculum out there that doesn’t lean to a world view, but just tells the truth?

Teaching history is a mine field, peppered with little bombs of “worldview” that can go off at any time.

In my search for a history curriculum I actually came across advice on one homeschool site, that parents should make sure the history package they choose reflects their world view. That means as a Catholic I have to buy Catholic history books, not just to teach my children their Faith and history, but because non-Catholic history books will be skewed. Or I can’t buy Catholic books if I’m protestant or Jewish because Catholic books will be skewed. By skewed I mean dishonest.

I have no objection to buying my children well written history books that offer them the stories of their Faith, particularly on saints and great Catholics good and bad and downright awful. What I don’t want is to read Catholic history that has had all the truly awful ones removed. I want a TRUTHFUL history with all the saints and sinners who took part given a fair hearing.

I don’t want to buy a protestant history that dishes out all the Black Legends and blood libels against Catholics, while white washing the appalling behaviour of some of their “heroes” like Luther and the tyrant Elizabeth I. I want to see the whole story, told properly and honestly with actual history. If a writer must break the commandment against bearing false witness in order to give their ‘worldview’ then that worldview isn’t worth much.

Just one example of this is in a well known children’s history book in which it is stated that Catherine of Aragon had a “real” marriage with Arthur Tudor. The author, without producing any evidence, is saying that Catherine perjured herself when she took an oath in God’s Name saying her marriage with Arthur was not consummated. On her oath the marriage was annulled freeing her to marry Henry VIII. Even secular historians do not accuse Catherine of perjury.  As the same author says Henry VIII was pleased with Luther I can only assume she wrote a book without having read any on this subject! The same author decided that Prince Vladimir the great joined the Orthodox church quite some years before it even existed, presumably because she had no idea of the Catholic Byzantine Rite. (Eastern Rite Catholics understandably roll their eyes at the lack of recognition of their existence).

As for secular history book; Editing out all that any Christian did unless it was bad and of course including legend, is both pointless and dishonest. It is because of these books that Christians and others have taken up the task of writing their own history books. The problem is, in reacting to the shoddy work of some of these books, they are in danger of falling off the other side and producing shoddy work slanted dishonestly from another worldview. Some of the Catholic books seem to lean that way, and while they are great at putting forward parts of Catholic history that has been edited out and deliberately ignored – there’s a danger in this I believe, that we can get a bit of a ‘victim’ complex. Do you know what I mean?  For 2000 years almost without a break Catholics somewhere have faced injustice, persecution and martyrdom. wholesale anti-Catholic propaganda especially (and shamefully) in the English speaking world has meant quite a backlash now Catholics have more freedom (in the English speaking countries).

Persecution is something to be proud of, not get angry about. Blaming those alive today for what their ancestors did doesn’t strike me as all that helpful and as Catholics we are forbidden from this anyway because Jesus said so! Saying it happened and how is good history, but the facts can speak for themselves.

There has been a view, which I have never agreed with, that the winners write history and so all history is necessarily dishonest. This isn’t so. There are plenty of ways of ascertaining what happened, especially these days when more archives and documents have been made available; when it happened, to whom and why using documents and archeological evidence from both sides. It’s when chunks of the story are deliberately ignored because it’s embarrassing that things go wrong.

For us Catholics there is a great deal of history that is toe curlingly bad. We look with sadness at the Avignon popes and the growing political corruption that came to a head under the infamous Borgia family.  (With the shining exception of St, Francis Borgia – was he related to them? I haven’t read his story yet). We see Christendom filled with sinners and saints who faced the corruption of popes and bishops head on – most notably women saints such as St. Catherine of Siena and St. Bridget of Sweden. We see the work of St Francis of Assisi against some of the appalling decisions made by crusader armies. None of that needs to be avoided. Surely we can learn as much from the sinners in history as the saints.

I did once see a home ed mother actually bragging that she had removed her child from the carefully chosen secular school because they were teaching Bible events as though they actually happened! LOL! Bigotry and ignorance always seem to go together – but honestly! To be fair to good secular history books they don’t go so far as to try and pretend Jews and Christians have no history!

In some ways Catholic history writers are almost forced to write the bad things Catholics did, because God raised up so many very powerful high profile saints to tackle it. It would be difficult to impossible, I would guess, to write about saints like Sts Francis of Assisi, Catherine of Siena, Bridget of Sweden, Dominic, Ignatius Loyola, Teresa of Avila…and so on without mentioning that they faced the often utterly immoral and appalling behaviour of Catholics both clerical, lay and of course political.

You certainly can’t talk about Our Lady of Guadalupe without pointing out that the reason God had to send her, was the lack of conversions among the native people thanks to the slave trade and greed of the so-called Catholic rulers. The priests and brothers who worked so hard and protested the slave trade so well received their reward when nearly 9 million native south American people converted.

But I don’t want a history that has the guts ripped out of it as authors avoid the wonders of Art and architecture, medicine and philosophy, just because it was so strongly Church led.

All I want is a good children’s (mixed age) history curriculum that tells the truth. Written by someone who actually knows the history they are writing! I want it editorially honest treating black legend with the same disgust as the Jewish blood libel.

HELP!

OK I wrote all that and now I am going to say that with another family we are going to have a go at R C History because the books are broad and they make the boast that they are catholic as well as Catholic.  Let’s see how it goes.

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4 responses to “Is there are history curriculum out there that doesn’t lean to a world view, but just tells the truth?

  1. Try the history books published by colourpoint books. You can buy them direct from http://www.colourpoint.co.uk. Being part of the Irish curriculum they are obviously oriented to Irish history but cover British history too, from the Norman period to present day. They have workbooks to go with them and are set in two levels. They are aimed at years 7 onwards but I use the lower level for my 8 year old who really enjoys them. They are just simple books telling history, they do not appear to be biased.

  2. I agree, it is so hard. but then it was explained that all historians are influenced by their worldviews.

  3. Thank-you for this post. I totally agree, there shouldn’t need to be any cover up in Catholic books as we can learn as much from where people went wrong as where they went right. Please let us know how you get on with those books. Even recommendations for “mother culture” reading would be useful, as I’m not sure I would always be able to know what is biased in children’s history books. There is so much out there to potentially chose from and so little time to read it all!

  4. Thanks Kate I’ll look into that. I’ve been mooching for more Irish history anyway. It gets shunted aside even in Brit books.
    Erin – perhaps but then that should not mean allowing dishonest and inaccurate information.
    Liz – yes I think so too. In fairness to Catholic authors, so far at least, I haven’t had to correct or expand for context much at all. I

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