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    Studying History as a Form of Self-Congratulations

    September 20, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    I’ve been thinking about World War Two a bit lately. Specifically, how one goes about studying such an event as a subject of history. This all began when I became aware of Prussian Blue, a white nationalist singing duo {homeschooled, by the way} that was featured at the end of August on ABC’s Primetime. I had the opportunity not only to watch most of the Primetime show, but then later listen to an interview with them on a local radio talkshow.

    On Primetime, it was most striking to me that the girls admitted that they thought Hitler had a lot of good ideas. When I couple that with my observations of the girls during the AM Radio interview, it seems that the girls separate the end results of what Hitler did from his ideas. {It is also obvious that they deny certain particulars concerning the Holocaust, which may explain their obvious lack of horror.} In all, it is hard to believe that such sweet-sounding little girls would sing songs praising Hitler’s Deputy Fuhrer, Rudolph Hess.

    I have never studied any alternate theories concerning the Holocaust, but I have been taught the {brief} history of World War Two, first in a public school classroom, and later at a private Christian university. And I can tell you that the approach to studying this period of history didn’t vary from institution to institution. I always studied just that: the war. Which was, of course, followed by the gory details of the Holocaust.

    I now call this studying history as a form of self-congratulations. When one studies the war in American classrooms, knowing that Americans won the war, Americans freed the Jews, it always seems to be implied that Americans would never have done such things or elected such a person. It is a constant patting of oneself on the back for being so superior to those horrible, heartless Germans.

    Which is why I found this month’s Epistula from Veritas Press so intriguing. The feature article was entitled Educating for Worship and it was written by Toby Sumpter. I wish I could link to it, but alas it was an email-only article. I will, however, offer up a couple excerpts.

    It is probably important to mention that the article is addressed to teens who are being assigned Mein Kampf in their current curriculum. You see, Veritas Press is starting in a place most educators avoid: the rise of Hitler. It is easy to study the war. It is more unsettling to study how Hitler came to power. Sumpter starts his article by saying:

     

    For many, Adolph Hitler was the conservative, “family values” politician. Hitler passionately cared about the German family. He argued vehemently for rights of common workers, he spoke out against the so-called “liberation of women” from their callings in the home, and he encouraged a community culture that welcomed children and large families. Nazi papers, movies and educational curriculum consistently encouraged sexual fidelity and chastity, and they honored the responsibilities of mothers and wives in the raising of children and supporting their husbands.

     

    You see, Hitler started out by appealing to the concerns of people just like me.

    And that is precisely the point. I love and appreciate history, but I also have a desire to learn its lessons, and to teach those lessons to my children. If all we do in our homeschool {when we are old enough, of course} is study the war and the Holocaust, we will simply pat ourselves on the back and convince ourselves that we would never be complicit in such evils. But if we instead study Germany and understand that we would have sympathized with her problems and looked to a strong, moral leader to solve them, then we realize that we, too, are susceptible. We see our weakness, rather than only our strengths.

    This is not to say that one should diminish strengths and virtues when one is studying history, for there is a place for appreciating what was accomplished by this country in the war. But as an individual, one must look into the darkness and see that all are capable of evil given the right circumstances, and only the grace of God keeps us from allowing such horrors. I will leave off with this, again written by Sumpter:

     

    This story of Hitler’s “wooing” of Germany also serves as a solemn warning to American evangelical Christians. Given that Christians are some of the most enthusiastic supporters of “family values” and “conservative politics,” we must recognize the slippery slope of following strategies like voting for the “lesser of two evils.” One of the most important ways we must protect ourselves and our descendants from the temptation of seeing politics as our savior must be the determination that all reformation begins in the Church. Faithful worship results in honest, joyful living before the face of God, and honest, joyful living is what results {eventually} in economic blessing, political stability and peace. Germany bought the lie that they were completely backed into a corner; they believed that Hitler really was the only way out. But Christ has promised that we are part of a Kingdom against which the gates of Hades will not prevail {Matt. 16:18}.

     

    Studying history can take two forms. One can either exalt oneself as being superior to what has taken place in the past, or one can be humble and learn about human weakness with the intent to become more noble and rely on God’s protection and direction more than ever. I believe it is the latter path that will be of greater benefit to one’s children and one’s own soul.

     

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    3 Comments

  • Reply Kimbrah September 26, 2006 at 5:24 am

    Brandy-

    Great post! I think my feedreader must not have been working properly because this just showed up today, and I have been checking it daily. Weird.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that as a History major, I totally agree with your assessment here. That is one of the great joys of homeschooling is actually being able to teach history from the perspective of other countries, rather than just our own. I actually avoided American history classes as much as a could during my upper division courses because I was just so sick of it after being educated in the public school system. I am really looking forward to starting my kids with a world perspective and then moving in to where we live. I have been hearing about a homeschooling course that takes this approach and when I find out more about it I will let you know.

  • Reply Brandy September 21, 2006 at 6:08 am

    Hehe…

    To quote Dorothy (in the movie, not the book), “There’s no place like home.”

  • Reply MountainPowerLineman September 21, 2006 at 4:01 am

    Did you hear where those girls came from?

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