|"Big history" - A world in which human beings are reduced to minor, rather undistinguished role.|
History is made by occurrences such as the big bang and climate change in which human beings are reduced to a minor, rather undistinguished role. That is the essence of the "big history" syllabus peddled by Bill Gates and an increasingly loud environmental movement.
University of Kent sociology professor Frank Furedi is rightly worried about the danger of children being brainwashed by the "big history" envirofundamentalists:
The syllabus is very much of the moment. It resonates with the present misanthropic zeitgeist that is obsessed with the natural environment and regards the human-created one with deep suspicion. Its ambition is to convert schools throughout the world to its approach to the past.
No doubt the authors of this syllabus are motivated by the impulse of reforming the way children think about their past. However, whatever the aim of this syllabus, its effect will be to revolutionise the way schoolchildren think about the past through distancing them from their cultural legacy.
The author of this syllabus, David Christian, contends that what it offers is a story that transcends the nation-state and covers humanity as whole. He says in his course “you encounter humans not as Americans or Germans or Russians or Nigerians but as members of a single, genetically homogeneous, species, Homo sapiens”. However, his reduction of humanity to a biological species speaks to an imagination that has become estranged from civilisation, culture and community.
That is why human beings have a limited and undistinguished status in this syllabus. As Christian argues, humans are “only part of the picture” in his vision of history.
It is necessary to note that Christian’s project is not about universal history. A truly universal history would have as its focus the significant human accomplishments that bind together people of different cultures. Rather than focusing on the biological and chemical make-up of a species, a universal history would look at the way different civilisations evolved, interacted and developed, and dealt with the shared challenges confronting mankind.
The authors of this project claim to offer a shared global discipline. But what is shared are not historical but natural inheritances. This is a synthesis of what was once called natural history with environmentalist ideology.
Not surprisingly, its emphasis is on environmental factors, particularly the influence of geology and climate. From this perspective history is made by occurrences such as the big bang and climate change, and human beings are reduced to a minor, rather undistinguished role in the making of their world.
The lengthy timescale of big history - 13.7 billion years from the big bang - speaks to an imagination that relegates human accomplishment to a minor footnote. That is why in this syllabus, the human species does not make an appearance until well into the course. The assignment of a marginal role to humans in the making of their world is at the centre of environmentalist ideology. The timescale around which this story is constructed is an integral part of this ideology because the further you go back in time, - the more insignificant is the role of human beings relative to that of nature.
Indoctrinating children with such a passive version of human destiny is unlikely to encourage the opening up of young minds.
It makes perfect sense in teaching geography to move back in time when volcanoes and asteroids changed and ruled the world. Physics pupils need to know about theories to do with the big bang, and those studying biology require a knowledge of the evolution of the human species. What they also need is what big history devalues, which is an understanding of human history.
There is no doubt that history can and should be taught in a variety of ways. But whatever the strategy pursued, young people need to know about the experience of their community and nation. Australian children must be able understand the influences from the past that shape their life today. They also have to be exposed to the cultural legacy of their ancestors and the best that humanity offers. It is that which will give them the foundation for going forward in the future.
Read the entire article here
(picture by http://www.antiqueprints.com/)