I want to teach mishistory. In the current issue of Rethinking Schools there is an article about the Mercator projection map and the Peters' projection map and how the western Eurocentric viewpoint has skewed students for generations. (And for those lucky few who were paying attention: this same argument was presented on an episode of "The West Wing" albeit with not a very favorable view, still it was broadcast on national TV - maybe our kids will learn something!) This skewing is based on how we see the world,. our perceptions, perspectives our "hidden curriculum". This article does a great job exposing the hidden curriculum between the differences of the Mercator projection (starting somewhere about Germany as the center most point East to West as well as North and South.) The Peters' projection focuses more on the equator but still leaves the "projection" misshapen.
But, alas, what is good about this article is that it talks about the hidden curriculum, that information we present without realizing that we are presenting it. The misguided "modeling" of fallacy. And nothing gets me riled and ranting like the teaching of fallacy as truth, fundamental doctrine as the "standard".
I have a "squeeze" ball, you know one of those things you are supposed to squeeze when you are angry. Mine happens to be a model of the earth. I like this because it is soft and flexible and does not hurt when I toss it at my students. I do this to get them to rethink their perspectives. I toss them the "earth" and then ask them quite loudly and publicly: "Which is the top of the ball?" Invariably they will spin the earth until the North Pole or Arctic Ocean is on top and say "This is." I then toss them a plain red squeeze ball and again ask them which part is the top of the ball. Here they look at me and grin like I'm trying to pull something over on them and they say "Mr. K this is a ball it doesn't have a top."
I then ask them to compare the two balls they have n their hands and have them explain to me why one has a top and the other does not. This usually leads into mass confusion where my students grab up their pitchforks and shovels and try to route me out of the village.
I bring this up because of Western advancement and the Eurocentric view the Arctic Ocean (according to the standardized Mercator projection map) is at the top of the world. And therefore the Antarctic (which quite literally means NOT the Arctic) Ocean is at the bottom of the world.
Why is this important? Please think for a moment: in America everything UP is good. When we are happy we are "up" when we are sad, depressed, we are "down". For those Christians notice they "climb up" to Heaven and fall "down" to hell. Western civilization has associated UP with everything good and positive and DOWN with everything bad and negative.
Try this simple experiment: ask your students to describe what they think a typical city in North America is like. Then ask them what they think a typical city is like in Central America, South America. If my assumptions are correct most of the answers for the non-USA countries will be something akin to grass huts or adobe shelters or something similar where everybody either rides a donkey or an old school bus. But (again I am looking at a generalization of students) they will not talk about skyscrapers, factories, suburban homes and late model Acuras, Fords, or Volkswagens.
Why is this? Well many reasons but one is the misconception, the myth we propagate every time we point at a map on the wall. We (good ol' USA) are better because we are UP. We are ABOVE, all of the other countries, and therefore we are civilized and important.
I have this map on my wall (it was designed by Lovell Johns, LTD of
On mine I have written the words "The World as Mr. K Sees It" because I am trying to make a point. However, the map itself should tell you a lot. What is even more educational is that MapQuest sells another in the exact same colors and design but in the more traditional viewpoint.
The point? The point is awareness, awareness of everything in its own perspective. I do not think that a child in Chile needs to believe that they live at the bottom of the world, or (while it IS embraced as a badge of honor) do we need to refer to people who live down under something? Just our simple act of explaining the Gulf War Crisis or how when we point to where the soldiers that were accidentally killed this week in Kuwait by friendly fire is a modeling of how superior we are because "hey, we drew the map!"
I am reminded of that adage: 'history is written by the winners' - since this is a fundamental truth I want to teach mishistory.