A national hero is described as a person who has been recognized for his or her role in the history of a given country.
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This could be due to achievements, personal qualities or positive contributions. No matter how a person earned their status as a national hero, the government can create or destroy this image based on how the person is lauded or not. A look at our history tells us whether this is a good or bad thing. Children across the globe revisit history every day in school. However, is what they are learning true? Many nations report on the facts, but depending on whether that information makes the country look good or bad, it may be taught in a misrepresented way.
Take slavery as an example. It’s commonly taught in schools, but is glazed over as a way for the rich citizens of the country to hock their wares and support the economy. There’s not a lot of mention about the terrible treatment and oppression that many slaves lived under. Sure, whippings and ownership are mentioned, but are they studied in depth? Not really. And this changes the perception, both of the events, but also of the national heroes involved with ending it.
So, should certain national heroes be destroyed by the government? In 2017, Canadian officials, specifically those involved with the Elementary Teacher’s Federation of Ontario, moved to remove Sir John A. MacDonald from history books because of his alcoholism and corrupt practices when he was prime minister. The debate that arose essentially battled over whether this is a good way to teach history or a good way to dishonor someone who did bad things. At one time, MacDonald was considered a national hero, but it is honoring Canadian history to destroy him and remove him from history books? In some cases, a so-called national hero is glorified with his or her name on a school, park, government building or street. Some are suggesting that rather than nixing these people from history altogether, that we should choose not to keep their name up there, which gives them glory for something that it was later discovered they really didn’t have much of a part in.
The debate continues when it comes to Native Americans and other indigenous people. The history books report the circumstances surrounding their displacement and the loss of their culture in such a way that it makes it seem right. Many would disagree. What the white people did to the Native Americans was wrong and often illegal. However, the history books don’t present it in that way.
Here is an instance where many feel that the history books be changed. After all, so many national heroes are those who killed and moved the Native Americans simply because they wanted their land and resources. When it comes down to it, deciding whether or not to rewrite history has less to do with the government and more to do with teaching people how things really happened. It does children in schools a huge disservice to be taught something that isn’t entirely true. By retelling the facts as they were, people everywhere have a better understanding of past events and are better able to learn from them going forward.
The debate is far from over and there are people on both sides who present valid arguments. While an agreement is far from being reached, it makes sense that the issue is being evaluated and examined. It seems that more people should be getting involved with reaching a conclusion that everyone’s happy with.