Australian History, Universal Issues and Priorities Shared in New Book
With the recent Boston Marathon bombings, America and the rest of the world are examining if people have really learned from history. New York Representative Peter King said of the recent terrorist strike, "The Boston Marathon bombing 'is the fifth case' in which U.S. government officials examined individuals potentially involved in terrorism 'and felt they were no threat and they went on to carry out terrorist murders.'" Author Geoffrey Partington helps people learn from Australian history and universal issues in order to shape a better future through his newly published book titled Making Sense of History.
The book examines the difficult relationship between freedom and security and the problem of how far to tolerate the intolerant. It is not the illiterate or beggars who become terrorists by and large, but young people who have had a full secondary education and often university education as well. This ought to concern all who value the arts and humanities.
It proposes Five Priorities to help people select the more important rather than the less important when studying history. The Five Priorities are Livelihoods, Security from violence, Freedom(s), Relationships, and Ideas. Despite external constraints, human beings make choices rather than respond automatically to events. That is why history does not provide laws or lessons as physics or mathematics may do, but is best conceived as proverbial wisdom writ large.
"Knowledge of times before we were born is a gift, so far as we know, that only human beings possess and flourishes best in open societies in which there is a reasonable balance between freedom and security," states Partington. That balance will never be perfect, but we can ensure that it is better rather than worse. "We should help everyone to understand the past better but strongly resist those who misuse it in classrooms and lecture theatres to pursue destructive ends."
Partington's book is relevant today because there has never been a time when better understanding was needed of different traditions and values, but also of threats to some of those most fully developed in western societies. Most of his readers will gain instruction and often amusement from his selection from the past, but many will also be disturbed by his exposure of history teaching that deepens prejudices and hatred rather than helping to reduce them. It is doubly disturbing that the main distortions are perpetrated, not in the schools, but in the universities that ought to be beacons of light rather than purveyors of distortion.