"Why this interest in history? Why this wish to reawaken the past?"
This question was asked on Fox News this morning. Now, of all people, I of course know that journalists fare well to ask the seemingly stupid question. It forces subjects to explain and articulate and it avoids presumptions.
But this question is revelatory.
It explains something of the contemporary attitude towards history - of closing doors on it and moving relentlessly, mindlessly forward. History is barely taught in schools these days. Somewhere along the line it was decided the history was hard, it was dry, and students could be alienated if they had to remember dates.
It was one of the victims of the dumbing down of education.
There was a spelling test recently which was spectacularly failed by Australian teachers. Why? Because they don't read.
That is ironic in this time when text has been given vigorous rebirth on this medium.
One may blame the spoon-feeding of television for the declines in basic education.
But the real culprit is, of all things, education and gender equality.
Teaching no longer the only career for many intelligent women. They can do whatever they want - and they do. Given the choices, however, the brilliant women who once dominated school education now take careers in the subjects they once taught. They are historians rather than history teachers, mathematicians rather than maths teachers...
Cultural progress has resulted in cultural decline.