Worldview as it Relates to History
History can be a controversial subject because it deals not only with objective facts, but also with the interpretation and the meaning of those facts. Many parents believe that history teaches important lessons about society and human nature and are sensitive to the type of history lessons that they want their family exposed to. This is especially true among conservative parents who believe that contemporary authors sometimes distort the facts of history to support a liberal and anti-Christian agenda.
As Christians, we are aware of the academic bias against all manner of objective authority and moral order. But the books in the Heritage History library were published before 1923, and Children’s authors that denigrated or explicitly contradicted Christian teachings were rare in that time period. Our books are all are respectful of Christianity, the accomplishments of Western Civilization, and traditional morality. It is not modern biases—which contemporary homeschoolers are so vigilant to avoid—but older biases, such as imperialism, Germanic racism, progressive optimism, and anti-Catholic vitriol that we have had to contend with.
There certainly were pockets of relativism in children’s publishing a century ago. Hendrick Van Loon’s Story of Mankind, published in 1921, was one of the first children’s histories to put forward an explicitly secular view of “pre-historic” mankind. But most libraries of the era contented themselves with providing classical children’s histories based on ancient and biblical sources. It is worth noting, however, that Van Loon’s book won the first “Newbery Medal” for children’s literature, in spite of the fact that it had to undergo numerous revisions for misrepresentations, especially in its “pre-historic” speculations. This probably marked a sea-change in the dominant worldview of the American Library Association, so Christians are right to be concerned about histories published in after years.
Although we believe that the books in our library are wonderful resources for traditional parents, we don’t contend that every book is suitable for every student. It is a far different assignment for an individual parent to make decisions about reading assignments for their own family, than it is for a librarian to decide which books may be valuable to a variety of families with different learning styles and faith traditions. At Heritage History we republish hundreds of books by dozens of authors, for a variety of ages, on every imaginable historical topic. However, only about ten percent of our histories deal with explicitly religious subjects. The vast majority deal indirectly or not at all with Christian themes.
Instead of simply making a statement of our own personal faith, therefore, we believe it is more helpful if we disclose some of the guidelines we used in deciding what to include in our library. The matter isn’t a simple one of our own personal worldview, but rather, the vision we have for our library.
- The primary mission of Heritage History is to promote narrative, or “story-based” history, rather than instructive or analytical history. We prefer books that tell their stories in the most engaging possible manner, and so avoid analytical and comparative histories, even those written with the best of intentions.
- We do not include classroom textbooks except in a few cases where the text itself was written in a story-based style. All our books are intended to be read continuously rather than studied on a chapter-by-chapter basis, and we believe that densely written textbooks are less appealing to students than lighter, more conversational histories.
- All of the works of historical literature found in our library are children’s versions. At this time our library only contains adapted and simplified versions of historically significant works, no unabridged classics.
- Our library focuses on “real” histories, rather than historical fiction because we believe that well-written histories are often just as engaging as fictionalized accounts. Most of the works of fiction we do include are either intended for younger students, or are valuable primarily for their historical insights rather than their literary merits.
- Our library contains histories and biographies written from both Protestant and Catholic perspectives. Most of our books, however, provide a Protestant, but reasonably balanced viewpoint and only a few are overtly biased in their treatment of the conflict. Several of our most virulently anti-Catholic books, such as “Highlights of the Mexican Revolution” are included because they realistically portraying extreme anti-Catholic bigotry as it actually existed. We do not condone such vitriol, but believe that it is historically significant.
- We include books that depict American Indian, Native African, and Polynesian cultures in a manner that is no longer considered sufficiently “sensitive”. Most of our accounts are based on original sources, and although we regret any distortions, as far as we are aware they accurately portray events as they actually occurred.
- We do not include works, such as “The Story of Mankind” that begin with entirely speculative accounts of “cave men” or early humans evolving from apes because they are of no historical value even to skeptics. We make a distinction between legitimate archeological evidence of ancient civilizations, much of which supports Biblical accounts, and unhinged hypothesizing.
- Several of our books include patriotic references to imperialism, generalizations about cultures, optimistic references to social progress, anti-clerical comments, or other offhand statements that we do not condone. We are not prepared to defend every word in every book, but if we did not believe that the value of a particular book did not strongly outweigh its minor imperfections, we would not include it in the collection.