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Historical Frames


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"If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail." --Abraham H. Maslow

Unless you had an alternative eduction, you probably learned U.S. history the same way a majority of American students learn U.S. history, through the eyes of the power elite. According to text books, all that ever happened, happened because of presidents and wars and assassinations. We learned of Columbus 'discovering' the new world. We learned of Abraham Lincoln freeing the slaves. These are broad strokes and highly impartial.

It's also an over simplified description of a very narrow slice of a huge country's entire history. My examples are just to make a point. Viewing history from this perspective, is not really knowing history.

Education uses frames to teach (without necessarily describing them as frames or admitting to them). The main frame used is that public education has limitations on what it can teach. Because it is funded by taxpayer money, the government determines the curriculum--what can and can't be taught. History books are revised not based on fact, but on what is most advantageous to the power structure. Revising history seems to be an Orwellian work of fiction. That couldn't possibly happen here, right? But when you think about it, all history is an act of revision and a work of fiction.

I came across "The People's History of the United States". It's a book that has been around for almost thirty years and continues to be updated as history continues to be move forward.

This book is a classic reframe and whether or not we can agree that the perspective is valid, or "Marxist" or "socialist", we have to agree that it is an entirely different frame from what we're used to.

Look at Columbus' "discovery" from the perspective of the people who were already there: genocide and blankets with small pox.

And how about those cute Thanksgiving pilgrims that we regard as fleeing religious persecution and bravely venturing onto the New World. The natives might see this as more of a violent colonization by early English settlers.

At the end of the most recent edition of "The People's History" is an amazing reframe of the "war on terror". For the most part, people have accepted what the media and powers that be have handed out as the reason Arab terrorists attacked us on 9/11--they hate our freedom. Hmmm. . . But maybe they hate our foreign policy and would leave us alone if we left them alone. Maybe they're simply fed up because we have stationed "U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia... sanctions against Iraq which... had resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children; [and] the continued U.S. support of Israel's occupation of Palestinian land."

But wait. . .That's not what the TV or newspapers tell us. Why? Because it doesn't fit with what they want to do or how they want us to be passive in their doing it.

Frames are complicated, just as reality is complicated, just as life is complicated, but if we can see the frames for what they are, then we can control them.
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