History is not Zombies

“All this has happened before and all this will happen again.” – BSG.

Today, our ex-former PM, the dear old Tun Dr M, was quoted in TheStar as saying that, “History cannot be reviewed as we cannot change what had happened. It is better to tell the truth about the nation’s past.” He was commenting on a recent statement by Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Khaled Nordin that the history syllabus for schools would be revised following new findings of the nation’s past.

When I read it, I almost puked.

This is the problem with our present education system. We tell our kids that there is only one version of our history and that they need to accept it on faith. As a result, we breed a whole generation of zombies that suffer more glitches than Dead Island.

My dearest Tun, you’re sorely mistaken. What we need is to bring up a generation of thinkers. In order to do this, we must push our kids to think for themselves and constantly challenge accepted norms. This is the only way that they can learn to ‘draw their own conclusions’.

As for history, there is always more than one version of it. History is all a matter of perspective. One man’s freedom fighter is another’s terrorist. That is why it is dubbed “his-story” as the tale depends on the point-of-view. This is more than true with our Malaysian history – viewed through a multitude of different coloured lenses.

I learned this important lesson while I was an undergraduate studying Malaysian Studies at a local university under DokMat. The very first lecture that DokMat had was to tell us that we should forget everything we’d learned in SPM history is it was wrong and he proceeded to re-write Malaysian history from the beginning.

I loved his classes. I hope that he is still doing this with his students today – mindfuck!

He provoked us to think and question what we have previously learned and not to just accept things as we were told. The only way to understand history is to question it. History, when taught in this manner, becomes a logical narrative and comes to life on its own accord.

My dearest Tun, this is the kind of history that we want our kids to learn – the kind that is filled with real people, real feelings, real motivations and dreams, taking real action with real consequences. History is multi-faceted and is not just a random sequence of events, dates and actors.

Learning history is about understanding all sides of the story so that we can learn the lessons of the past. We need to figure out how we got here today from where we once were. Otherwise, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes in the future.

I support reviewing our history syllabus to question the past, not to brainwash the young, to survive the future.

PS: I dare say that it was DokMat who awoke my socio-political consciousness and love for the nation. Without him, Malaysia would not make any logical sense at all.

Published by

Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered/Professional Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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