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Podcast Episode 2

Leadership and the Humanities Podcast

Episode 2: The Trouble with History and Truth

We talked last time about the fact that history is written by the victors, which is to say, by people. And if there’s one thing we know about people…

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  1. William Coben William Coben

    Listening to the fascinating, yet disgusting truth about a man that nearly every child celebrates and looks up to around the world really made me curious about the truths of other history’s that are so agreed upon, yet could be so fraudulent. Furthermore, it makes me question how bad some events of our past really were given the knowledge that they were likely recorded by Christian, white men. As for my formal question, what was slavery truly like for African Americans during the enslavement period in the United States? The 17th and 18th century in America was controlled and dominated by the White, Christian male, as it was in the days where Columbus was heroized, so I want to know the true story. I want to understand the true pain, the real hardships, and the unfathomable suffrage that the black community underwent during times of enslavement to get a better understanding of the poor history recordings, as well as the demands and reparations that the black community is seeking to this day.

    • Jeffrey Sprung Jeffrey Sprung

      Will, that is a great point. After learning about Columbus’ true personality and the malicious crimes he committed against Native Americans in Dr. Bezio’s “Podcast Episode 2,” I also felt betrayed by the historians that perpetuated the heroic image of Columbus that so many Americans still uphold to this day. Similarly to you, I am also curious about the many events in history whose narratives were twisted from the truth. It is unfortunate that history was written by rich, white, Christian men because the perspectives of the minority groups involved in historical events, such as African Americans during the enslavement period in the United States, were not given an equal voice in history.

  2. Zachary Andrews Zachary Andrews

    I too found the Second Podcast to be very enlightening. As a former high school student, I knew that history was always written from the perspective of the victor but I never truly understood that it was solely the Wealthy, White, Christian men that recorded history. In addition to that, I had no idea some of the things that Dr. Bezio mentioned such that Christopher Columbus’ actual name was not really Christopher Columbus and that his ship, the Pinta, was not really named that. Instead they called it that because it was a painted ship. What I found most interesting is that conquerors and former leaders all used methods of assimilation. Methods like these are used to subject power and might over another population. My question is, would it have been possible for an incoming population, or group of people, to coexist with the natives of that land without having the urge or need to culturally assimilate them? Why do humans have the urge to have power over others who are different from themselves? (Examples of this can be seen in areas such as the findings of Natives in the New World, the English in India, as well as within South Africa.)

  3. Kathrine Yeaw Kathrine Yeaw

    After listening to this podcast, I thought about the way I have learned and thought about history my whole life. Her beginning statement that a lot of the time “incorrect history is done intentionally” surprised me. How do we know what’s really incorrect if that is the only perspective we have? I always thought about history simply as facts from the past, but after hearing what Professor Bezio said, I realized history needs to be thought about in more than this one way. I found it interesting that we must question who is telling us this history, and why they might be telling us. Is there a goal in mind, or are they trying to persuade us to think a certain way? That may be the only way to determine if the history we are learning is “incorrect”.

  4. Madeline Orr Madeline Orr

    One of the biggest takeaways from Episode 2 of the podcast was how history is often told with a certain purpose or lesson in mind which can skew the truth about what actually happened. It has really made me go back and think about history that I have learned and wonder how much of it is actually true or if there have been adjustments to make the stories more desirable to tell. I think this can also be seen in many other areas where people tend to stretch or skew the truth in order to have a more interesting and inspiring narrative. I also thought that an important part of the podcast were the questions Dr. Bezio said that we should ask when reading history: “who is telling this story? What do they want me to learn and why?”. It has become clear that we need to read and analyze history and other forms of information with critical eyes. Would there be a different effect or impact on the portrayal of history if told by people with first-hand accounts? Or does human nature tend to make people dramatize the story for affect?

  5. Olivia Cranshaw Olivia Cranshaw

    Coming from a fairly progressive high-school, I have heard about the disgusting truth behind the story of Christopher Columbus’s “discovery of America” since middle school and throughout high school. However, I was never taught the more complicated origins of the holiday itself, which is what I found specifically interesting. I had no idea that Columbus day was founded in the 1900s as a way to change the narrative about Italian-Americans, but now that I do know this I can retrospectively see its impacts on American history. Therefore my question is what ways and to what extent has the manipulation of early “American” history affected other groups that are or have been considered a minority? And, how can today’s teachers regulate the manipulation of history so America’s “story” can be truthful, ethical, and diverse?

  6. Isabela Keetley Isabela Keetley

    After listening to Podcast #2, I was left with questions. Questions about what else I have been taught that is by no means true. I was fortunate to go to a very progressive highschool thus, I was taught the truth about Columbus. While I am happy to say that I know the truth about him, I did not learn this truth until I was in highschool…far too late if you ask me. Dr. Bezio challenged me to consider what I have learned in past history classes from the perspective of the author and the time period. The idea that history has mistakes is okay, however the notion that these “mistakes” are 100% intentional blows my mind. I am now left with questions like, what else have I been wrongfully taught?, what is the real truth when it comes to history? and is it possible that there is no real truth at all?

  7. Elina Bhagwat Elina Bhagwat

    I found this podcast extremely interesting and eye-opening. I think the main takeaway that I got from listening to episode two is that everyone has an agenda to push. The idea that history is always told with a purpose leads to the question; how can we determine what the personal agenda is? From this point on I will definitely be more conscious of the purpose or reason for the piece being written when reading history and literature. I’m curious as to how we should go about determining the point of view and personal agenda of authors of history. This also leads to the question of which historians we can trust, or is it better to read multiple accounts of the same story to corroborate sources? What really stood out to me is the inevitable presence of nationalism and patriotism especially regarding history that involves America. In my government class we talk about how patriotism is such a strong trait of Americans but I never thought about how this can be translated to white supremacy in history. This idea that because we want more people to be entrepreneurial, it’s okay to excuse the white supremacy, racism and misogyny that Columbus exhibits is a larger issue with the retelling of history.

    • Jeffrey Sprung Jeffrey Sprung

      After gaining insight on the specific details of Columbus’ life and his voyage through listening to this podcast, I completely agree with you that events in history have their respective goals or agendas behind them. Now I think it is very important to not be complacent when learning about events in history, so I agree that historical events should be analyzed by multiple sources in order to gain a more accurate, well-rounded description of the event.

  8. Alexander Dimedio Alexander Dimedio

    This second podcast brings an eye opening perspective to History as we know it. It makes me wonder what parts of history are true, and what parts of history are rewritten by the victors? It makes me wonder, how can we better assess the credibility of historians that died hundreds or even thousands of years ago? We happened to learn the truth about Columbus, but what about the likely thousands of other stories that did not get corrected. Is there anything we can do to be certain about history, and if not what can we do today to make sure generations to come know the truth about 2020? This podcast really puts a whole new perspective on history and what we thought our past truly entailed.

  9. Maggie Otradovec Maggie Otradovec

    Comparing real life to George Orwell’s novel 1984 has a frequent pastime of mine these past few years, especially in the last six months or so. I have more or less identified the equivalents of everything from Thought Crime and the Thought Police to how the combatant in the current war is constantly changing, but never changes at the same time. Listening to this podcast, however, got me thinking of these Orwellian-esque societal woes from a more historical lense. Dr. Bezio explained how Christopher Columbus was glorified and Americanized in order to promote Italian-American popularity at a time where people of Italian heritage were oppressed. This movement more or less changed the perceived history. “Oceania was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia,” (Orwell). With the example of Columbus in mind, what other historical events were rewritten to fit societal needs? Where is the evidence to find the truth in historical events and happenings? How can we keep this from happening to the present we’re living in now?

  10. Thomas Bennett Thomas Bennett

    How does the fact that no singular living person or group is completely to blame for the problem of the improper way the history of Columbus is taught affect the ability to solve the problem? Does the inability to point blame at a living entity make it harder for the problem to be solved and does it mean that we all share the responsibility of perpetuating the myth?

    • Jeffrey Sprung Jeffrey Sprung

      That is a great question. I was wondering the exact same thing as you. I think our generation is a major reason why the perception of Columbus is changing within the United States. We have more access to information and sources (due to the Internet, etc), which portray the true details of Colombus’ life and legacy.

  11. Samuel Hussey Samuel Hussey

    After listening to the second podcast, it really got me thinking about the motivations to craft history in a certain way. The actual facts are often indisputable, but how the stories are told can shape peoples understanding of what actually happened. One question I have is how long will original ethnic groups continue to divide our society into social constructs? Today, we live in a globally connected world where ethnicities and nationalities coexist amongst each other unlike ever before. How long will humans continue to look at the stories crafted by our ancestors to separate each other before we unite as one human race, devoid of all social constructs? New technologies such as the internet and aviation allow humans to be connected from every corner of the globe. When, if ever, will society no longer abide by the ethnic barriers that divide us?

  12. Sofia Adams Sofia Adams

    After listening to the second Podcast I am left with many questions about my past education not only in history but other areas of study as well. I am also left wondering why in elementary, middle, or high school we are never explicitly taught about historiography. Historiography is just as important if not more than the facts and “history” itself. We are rarely taught to think about why we are learning what we are learning and where it came from. Thinking about it now it makes perfect sense that everything we’ve ever been taught has a bias, it comes from other people. But why just now am I questioning everything I’ve learned in the past. Why was I never taught to question my history textbook or even my teacher? Why are students/people in general so quick to trust what is told to us? That goes for every subject and news as well. Why are we not taught to question from the beginning of our education?

  13. Mia Slaunwhite Mia Slaunwhite

    The first thing mentioned in Podcast 2 was the idea that almost every history we learn has been changed in its own way for many different reasons. We trust history books and any historical facts from the past where there is no evidence—like a video in particular. We trust people who seem to be official. Everyone will make mistakes—we are all guilty of that and in some ways, we forget that those who record/write our history do not make mistakes and we trust that what they say goes. Why do we just accept mistaken history?

  14. Michael Stein Michael Stein

    This morning started just like any other for me. I woke up, grabbed my phone, and — in typical Gen-Z fashion, checked Instagram. Of the many stories I swiped through while my roommate continued to slumber, I noticed one post appear again and again. The post attempted to complete a harsh fact-check of the Republican National Convention that transpired this past week. For the past four years, fact checking has been a critical component to the media’s coverage of politics and, in specific, the Republican party. The current fascination of holding our leaders accountable for their facts might make us believe that the distortion of facts is a new trend that plagues our politics. However, the story of Christopher Columbus as detailed by Dr. Bezio reminds us that the facts of history have always been version of facts as presented by the author. While the disgraceful aspects to Columbus’ character have been known since before he was celebrated, the availability for the average person to research the facts for themselves is new and, possibly, is the reason why Columbus has become less and less celebrated. As we move further into the 21st century, how will the rapid availability of knowledge via the internet change the ability of historians to weave their own narratives into history? Will services like Google and Wikipedia become the new gatekeepers of facts or will we continue to trust our leaders, historians, and teachers?

  15. Henry Groves Henry Groves

    After finishing the second podcast, I am left with many thoughts about the truth behind the history that I was taught in school. This podcast starts by talking about the troubles with history and truth. In high school, I was taught that history was written by the victors; however, I was never taught about people intentionally writing mistakes into history as if they were facts just to sound better. It makes sense as to why individuals would do it, but I do not understand why we just accept it and teach it to our youth. Christopher Columbus is a great example of this. I understand why schools don’t teach kids that Christopher Columbus encouraged murder and rape, but that does not mean we have to call him a hero. My question that I thought about when listening to this podcast is, “Will we, the people that study/teach history, ever be able to correct the lies that have been written in?” Some of the lies that we have been taught, like Christopher Columbus, are starting to be corrected, but how many more stories are we taught that are just like Columbus and we have no idea that they are lies.

  16. Michael Childress Michael Childress

    I think that Monday’s podcast was very important because it set the stage to give me a new perspective on history, especially the history we will learn about in this class. If I know to be looking for ways that an agenda is potentially being pushed when listening, reading, or watching the content in the class, I think that my initial reaction may be different, and could offer me a new perspective that I otherwise would not have. Two points were especially interesting to me in this podcast. First, the point that history is written by the victors means that they (the victors) can shape the narrative which ever way they want. Furthermore, “victors” throughout history have tended to be those who have conquered the most. Whether it is land or people, conquest has been achievement throughout history that has essentially given people the right to tell their own stories. I believe this, in turn leads into the adoption of the Great Man Theory that “Since this person conquered this land, we should probably respect them, listen to them, and trust that their version of history is infallable”, pretty much neglecting to question the validity of the stories, leading to a one sided, distorted view of history. Next, my question is “how do we change this understanding of information?” If children are told that Columbus is a world hero at such a young age when their minds are most malleable, I feel like often times it is far too late to offer any other perspective and have any success in changing a viewpoint on it.

  17. Charley Blount Charley Blount

    I don’t know why I sat through a year of US history in seventh grade when this podcast summed up the whole textbook in one paragraph: “We wanted a story with a hero who would encourage hard work and risk-taking in a capitalistic economy with someone who became wealthy and prosperous and helped his bosses to become wealthy and prosperous. And America is the best so we’re going to be really excited that he found it. And we’re just going to ignore all the people he killed.”

    While I agree that this oversimplified story is all too common is history classes, I did take issue with one aspect of the “history is told by the victors” theme. Towards the end of the podcast, Professor Bezio noted that if Columbus is the hero, then the indigenous Americans he defeated were the “bad guys.” In my history classes, I rarely categorized the people into two mutually exclusive categories that were “good” and “bad.” In most cases, the people and events were much more nuanced and were taught as such, even if the history was written by the winning side (also not always the case). Do you take issue with the good guy, bad guy categories, themselves? Or just which people are placed into which category?

  18. Olivia Cosco Olivia Cosco

    I found the second podcast to be very interesting. In a way, it made me question all the history I’ve learned in previous years of education. It made me wonder what the other side of the story is to previous history I’ve learned is. Specifically, I found it interesting that what we learn and think we know ultimately affects how we interact with others. While this makes sense, my question then is, “if we know some history we have learned is crafted wrong, how do we then change our, and future students, perception of history to be more accurate?”

  19. Sara Moushegian Sara Moushegian

    This podcast sheds light on the issue that most of history has been recorded incorrectly. There is always bias who is recording history. History is told with a purpose, and we must be aware of this. This is a dangerous thing when situations such as enslavement, mass killings, oppression, and more are silenced just to praise a white Christian hero.

    In the podcast, Professor Bezio brings up the point that history has been misconstrued to give Americans a hero, such as Columbus, that promotes patriotism and the idea that hard work allows one to thrive in our capitalist economy. My question is would our society be different if young students were taught the correct representation of America’s harsh past? How do we teach such the harsh truth to young minds, and still keep pride in our country?

  20. Sophia Picozzi Sophia Picozzi

    I really enjoyed podcast episode 2 and I was left pretty shocked by all the new facts I heard regarding Christopher Columbus and the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. I was most struck by the fact that the reason he really became elevated to hero status was that Italian Americans were combatting oppression and wanted to get rid of the unsavory and negative stereotypes held against them. My question pertains to this fact and is, “If Italian Americans were so oppressed and put down by society, how did they singlehandedly inflate this idea of Christopher Columbus and persuade the whole nation, where most held a powerful negative view of them, to worship him and alter their lives and education system to fit this idea?

  21. Mohamad Kassem Mohamad Kassem

    Before going to an International High school two years ago, I was oblivious to the disgusting truth mentioned in the podcast. Even in Lebanon, we were taught the false story in our books. I was always aware that historical stories are never told to us the way they actually happen but I kept wondering about the reason why winners rewrite history the way they want. ‘What do they gain from it ?’ was always my question. It wasn’t until recently that I discovered the answer to this question. I found Dr. Bezio’s podcast is really interesting and I was so glad to hear that she questions the legitimacy and reliability of the sources we pick our information from. People should know that not everything they hear is accurate especially when we talk about history, news reporting, and global issues. My question is:” are people ready to accept the truth and acknowledge that they have been fed lies all of their lives?”.

  22. Pierce Kaliner Pierce Kaliner

    My experience with Columbus was very typical, and Dr. Bezio described it almost perfectly. We were always taught about how Columbus was a great hero, and the genocide and mass enslavement was always buried in the context. It wasn’t until I did some further research of my own did I realize who the real Columbus was. I wonder to what extent are the other things that we take for granted inherently false? An example of this could be with President Abraham Lincoln. While he was “The Great Emancipator” Lincoln was actually a racist himself, just like the large majority of White Americans at the time. In History we always look for the hero, and while Lincoln freeing is honorable, we should learn the truth about him. My question is, how are we meant to determine between white lies in History to elevate someone, compared to flat out lies like Columbus? And, to what extent do we change the teaching of History to remove these lies?

  23. Alexandra Oloughlin Alexandra Oloughlin

    When I was in sixth grade, my teacher made us compare two books. A Children’s book telling how Christopher Columbus sailed and found America, and then a portion of the book (lies of a new world) where the true story of Christopher Columbus was exposed. That was illuminating, yet I still continued to trust all the history that was told in my textbook after the fact, because in sixth grade I didn’t comprehended and realize the intentions and ramifications of this false history.
    The history that was told to us fabricates over the bad to create a false narrative in which America looks good. The true history needs to be recognized, all the good and all the bad so that it can be learned from and not be used as a form of oppression. When the true events are glossed over, it allows history to continually repeat itself as no one is held accountable for the bad things done.

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