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May 17, 2002 The Voice of the Times reiterates support for Alaska history education

Posted: Monday, May 20, 2002

Some Alaskans have been in a dither about whether the history of this state -- and the territorial days that preceded statehood -- should be taught in our schools.

Count us among those who are dithering.

The trouble is, too many Alaska are saying we should just forget it.

We don't agree. Our concern for the lack of Alaska history in our classrooms has deep roots. For years and years, long before the subject became a popular item of discussion, we've been advocating mandatory Alaska history lessons in our schools.

Our repeated editorial comments -- and remarks by our editors in many public forums over the years -- were the first to put a spotlight on Alaska history and to place a high value on the subject, long before others got involved.

Now a lot of people are in the act, speaking up and urging our schools to get with it. But talk is not action, and Alaska still is a long way from having state history taught as a strong curriculum item in our schools.

One reason for delay now is an argument over whose version of history will be taught. Will it be the history of the miners and the trappers, the fishermen and the loggers, the Gold Rush pioneers and the Bush pilots, the oil explorers and the land developers, the soldiers and airmen who fought in the Aleutians and the civic leaders and politicians who fought for statehood? Or will it be the history of the oppressed and the deprived, the struggle by Native Alaskans of rural Alaska against city populations unconcerned about Bush villages, about environmentalists who claim to defend pristine wilderness?

Other questions are asked:

Will the teaching of history be skewed to be politically correct? Will history in the classroom become a brainwashing experience, either politically conservative or politically liberal? Who will write the textbooks? Who will monitor what is taught?

It's ironic that such questions should now arise and threaten to derail what really ought to be a simple subject. History is history, we always thought. The past was laid out for review, the warts and the roses, side by side.

Good teachers, we felt, would stimulate the interest of eager students and from the classrooms would come an understanding of what Alaska was in days gone by, and a knowledge of the people and issues that shaped what Alaska is today.

That's what we had in mind when we first starting beating the drums to make Alaska history a part of every young Alaskan's education.

We still feel that way.

And we're eager to see it happen, long before we're part of history, too.

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