Blogs > Liberty and Power > Are We Slow Learners?

Oct 30, 2005 8:33 pm

Are We Slow Learners?

Mr. Marina is Professor Emeritus in History at Florida Atlantic University, a Research Fellow of the Independent Institute, Oakland, CA, and Exec. Dir. of the Marina-Huerta Educational Foundation. He lives in Asheville, NC.

“That’s not the way the world really works anymore. . . . We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
A senior Bush administration adviser, 2002

A large number of Americans believe we are an "Exception to History”; brighter, richer, and just all around more Providentially Blessed, even when it appears this year with respect to wars, hurricanes, and just plain corruption and lies, that our leader may have lost the "Mandate of Heaven."

It may be that we are just, as a People, simply slow learners!

Even if you teach all of the people all of the time, some folks just don't learn very quickly, that the top of the stove is often hot to the touch. It appears, at times, that we even elevate one of these slow learners to the presidency, in order to better teach the rest of us by his example!

Anna Quinlan reminds us that we've been through this whole scenario before.

A historian might suggest to her, actually, this is at least the third time, and maybe, we have to hope this is not like baseball — 3 strikes and you're out — and that we will have to wait as long as the Chicago White Sox did, to have a shot at a World Series again.

In the Philippines over a century ago, we killed and tortured at least several hundred thousand Filipinos, although it may have been many more, losing a mere 4,000 Providentially Blessed American soldiers who gave their lives for the Empire. This "success" was due in great part because the Filipinos had few guns, having often to use bolo knives, to face American rifles, machine guns and artillery. Like the Vietnamese, the Iraqis do have guns and explosives!

While we were still diddling around setting up a "regime change" Protectorate in Cuba, we overwhelmed the Filipino revolutionaries, and set up a government of the old, Spanish Comprador elite, that men like Gov. Gen. William Howard Taft out in the Islands, to use today's terminology, would surely have proclaimed a great success in"Nation Building."

Those Americans who believe that, might read the five part series by Pedro Escobar in the Asia Times some months ago, entitled"The Sick Man of Asia," detailing the corruption and instability in those Islands today. Apparently, Nations don't stay Built! A good case could be made that this is about where things would be if we had simply left them with Spain. Most likely, with a little help somewhere along the line from the Japanese, they would have freed themselves from the Spanish anyway.

Perhaps America needs a new Motto:"Those who refuse to learn from History are doomed to repeat it."

Actually, at this point, our nation is bankrupt, not only morally, but financially as well, and that inflationary trend was evident several decades ago.

A number of historians, going back to the ancient empires of old, have remarked on a seeming 300 year cycle of the high tide of imperial power. At this point, what remains, is to speculate whether our Empire will even make it into that less than charming circle!

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Paul Mocker - 11/4/2005

You're right that a lack of perspective makes history less exciting. Without background, diverse points of view, and the perspective of today, students will have a narrow story of the past without the flaws of great people, the viewpoints of different systems of politics and economics, and the inclusion of their cultures.

Should students ever see that Cheney and her ilk want to make patriots (her definition: blind and subservient) out of young minds, what would they say about it?

William Marina - 11/2/2005

I am a retired History & Business/Public Policy Prof.
I did teach Middle Schoolers in FAU's Lab School about Entrepreneurship.
I was Assoc. Ed. of the 2nd ed. of a best selling US History text in a newspaper format, News of the Nation and hope shortly to have out a 3rd ed.
Most textbooks today do not impart any kind of perspective, and Lynn Cheney is leading a crusade to destroy any books that don't fit into the views of the Fundamentalist Right.
None of this helps make the study of History more exciting for students and the public at large.

Paul Mocker - 11/1/2005

Ms. Kazmier,

I'm disappointed to hear your view of students. Perhaps I'm naive, but in my Masters in Teaching program we are learning many ways to motivate students to work and get them interested in the lesson.

But, where I'm concerned is in how to communicate the relevance of learning history to the daily lives of students. Perhaps that message isn't so important if they like history.

Do you teach high school? How long have you taught?

Paul Mocker - 11/1/2005

That isn't a flattering portrait. It appears that the teacher is lecturing; it's too bad for him (and the students) that active teaching strategies weren't invented yet.

Do you know what the text says?

Kenneth R Gregg - 10/31/2005

And thus, it has always been, my friends. Here is a lecture note of a fifteenth-century student with a doodle of one of the teaching

Look familiar?

Lisa Kazmier - 10/31/2005

Good luck. I'm teaching freshmen who know nothing and show little interest or only a few show any motivation to work. My class is "too hard" because I don't allow them to cheat and expect them to actually know how to take notes. I find that too many of even the less-than-priviledged students are lazy. I don't know how you can change that. That to me seems to be the biggest obstacle.

Paul Mocker - 10/31/2005

Thanks for your views.

Although TV is a different medium, the popularity of some shows seem to show that Americans have an appreciation for history. I thought of TV programs such as Roots, The Civil War, Jazz, and the History Channel's recent shows on Rome, to name a few.

I think I disagree that Americans disdain history. Perhaps we want to be entertained while we learn.

That is a question I will be pondering during my career as a teacher.

William Marina - 10/31/2005

Looking at American best sellers, apart from many of the dreadful textbooks, we appear to like the sensational, but steer away from broader, more interpretive works with a perspective, or world view.

Paul Mocker - 10/31/2005


I'm surprised to read the word "disdain". I'm an aspiring high school history teacher. Do you really think the American people "disdain" the study of History? Motivating students is my central task as a teacher so understanding the reasons for lack of motivation to learn is important to me. Your thoughts on this issue would be appreciated.

William Marina - 10/30/2005

The Bushies are mainly arrogant Imperialists as shown in the opening quote.
The American people are slow to learn, because they often disdain the study of History, and give their politicians and bureaucrats an unwarrented benefit of the doubt

Kenneth R Gregg - 10/30/2005

I think the Bushophiliacs are just stupid. Smart, but unwilling to learn from history. That, to me, qualifies as the height of stupidity.

Just a thought.
Just Ken

William Marina - 10/30/2005

Sorry, David,
You'll have to ask Karl Rove or Scooter Libby, neither of whom may be in a talkative mood since
being interviewed by Mr. Fitzgerald.

David T. Beito - 10/30/2005

Who was the senior official?