We’re pretty sure that someone did say this, if you control history then you control the present. Which is true of both sides of this little argument here:
History lessons are too focussed on men fighting on the battlefields while women are “pushed to the side”, campaigners have said, as they launch a new project to teach children about female pioneers.
Ahead of the centenary commemoration of the end of World War One, the initiative will encourage schools to tell the stories of inspirational women who contributed to the war effort.
Well, OK, why not? The idea that all women, forever, were home bodies isn’t true. It’s also not true that that is the only choice available today. So, rationally, yes, why not tell of, in an earlier war, Florence Nightingale? She had an immense influence on the society around her after all.
One bit does puzzle:
The Big Ideas Company, which has received funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for the project,
Why them? Couldn’t they find anyone in Education stupid enough to splash out on this?
The worry here is, of course, that by being partial about the history taught to people they will change the present. That would be true of either side, those who say that more inspirational women should be talked of, or that fewer. Both are starting from the assumption that to change what the people believe about the past is to change that future. As with Paul Samuelson, who insisted that he cared not who ran the country as long as he got to write the economics textbooks. Much more power that way.
The probably correct answer is that we tell people what that past really was like. It’s not that women were condemned to the household. There were two factors. In those millennia when it was physical strength being paid for in the labour market men quite naturally earned more. Further, in order to have a decent chance of grandchildren, the very point of this life exercise, a woman would need to be pregnant or lactating much the bulk of her adult, fertile, life. Given the necessity of a split in labour within the household we can see how this would go therefore.
This really only started to change in the late 1800s and is somewhere near complete much more recently, perhaps from the 1970s. Yes, that late, and why don’t we tell people about it? Point out that this capitalist free marketry is the most feminist socio-economic system yet?
Ah, yes, we remember. Because that’s not the lesson desired at all, is it?