Dominic Pader had just picked up his ten-year-old daughter from school and was driving home, when out of nowhere she says, “Daddy, why is there a Married Man’s Trail?” (The trail married men took to get to Dolly’s brothel).
“I was scrambling. I told her where the trail led — to a place where men could meet women — which is kind of the truth,” said Pader. “I asked her if married men should go meet women they aren’t married to. We discussed a little bit about the morality of whether you should do something if you have to sneak around to do it.”
He gave the answer what any good parent should give their 10-year-old if they were to ask about adultery and prostitution without knowing specifically what they are. However, he played a part in passing down a sliver of history to her — Married Man’s Trail — and helping create the lens that she would view the world in.
Kayhi vice principal and history major, Mike Rath, believes that history is much more intricate and complex than the simple memorization of dates, places, and people.
“History is a living thing. It’s not just this dead past that has its own objectivity,” said Rath. “Almost all history is interpretive. Professional historians write books, and most of those historical books about events in history become obsolete in 10 or 15 years. They become obsolete because the interpretation of events is always changing.”
With Dolly’s House, contemporary society will likely view it with disdain — the prostitution, adultery, and hedonism. Pader thinks that may be an inaccurate interpretation of the brothel during the time.
“If I really wanna look at history I have to step out from behind my lens and try to get in the lense of the person who is living it right then — not that it makes good — but just to objectively, and I guess subjectivity, look at history as it was,” said Pader. “If you watch old cowboy movies they are having parties in brothels. You had 30-40 guys shooting the place up and drinking shots of whiskey. There is not necessarily a stigma back in that time, at least within certain segments of society, against it.”
Did people think it was good or bad at the time? How can one know? For starters, Kayhi history teacher, Michael Cron, says there must be agreement about the facts. Everyone needs to agree that World War II happened before they can begin to argue why it happened. The best way to figure out how it happened — aside from getting your hands on a time-traveling Delorean — is to read and analyze written primary source documents.
“This is one reason why writing was so important to advanced societies,” said Cron. “Somebody can write down an idea and it sits on a bookshelf for 150 years and then somebody else can pick it up and join back in on the conversation.”
A historian will read many accounts of what happened and try to piece it together — even hundreds of years after the event occurred — should they have the sources. Keep in mind, those sources are written by people. Sometimes they are wrong or they lie.
“You never look at what somebody has written and treat it as absolute truth. You can’t trust it,” said Cron. “Good historians only go as far as, ‘The evidence suggests that. . . blah’.”
The way a certain society records previous history is also a strong indicator of two things according to Cron: It helps show the lens of the culture at the time and the assumptions made by that society in interpreting history the way they did.
“That AP European textbook, in the middle ages section, they have a section about homosexuality,” said Cron. “That would not have been in the AP Euro history textbook 20 years ago because it was a different time and not something they considered worthy of emphasis. Scholars were working on it. . . [but] in the past they would have said ‘Let’s write about another dynastic struggle’.”
In contemporary society, the way it views facts and history to form opinions has changed. Never has media played such a powerful role in polarizing the nation. Look no further than the Trayvon Martin shooting in 2012. The shooting of an African-American teen by a neighborhood watch patrol member – George Zimmerman. News media outlets scrambled to spin the story off in a manner that would support their political agenda. The result was two drastically different stories.
There is a set of events that happened, but if all you did was watch one of those, [CNN] and a year later watch another [Fox], you’d think this is way different from that thing that happened a year ago,” said Pader. “They are showing what their audience wants to see — confirmation bias.”
Glorified history and sensational journalism isn’t a new phenomenon. During Alaska’s dog sledding years — pre-Iditarod — newspapers articles would be printed with extravagant and romantic headings to attract buyers according to Kayhi journalism teacher Jeff Lund.
“That’s how you sold papers at first. Even today,” said Lund. “Is it wrong for you as a newspaper to consider your audience — and if you’re in San Francisco — am I going to have a conservative newspaper? No one’s going to buy it. Are you going to be moral for the sake of being moral and go out of business, or are you going to cater to the audience there?”
That raises a larger question of why this conflict has formed in society. Why have people within the same nation split themselves into two different ideologies while painting the other to be the enemy?
“Part of it is because it kind of has a disagreement within itself about what stuff is considered sacred and what is not,” said Cron. “They view the world through very different lenses. People can follow those frameworks with different levels of cognition from a visceral intuitive sense to a philosophical intellectual sense.
That dissonance within society has created a reality where someone can choose to be exposed to only the things they want to believe, and never see an idea or thought that threatens their worldview.
“We are talking about opinions about facts. You look at the facts you form an opinion, I look at the facts I form a different opinion,” said Rath. “What is scary now is we seem to be flirting with this practice of picking and choosing our facts. There are some fundamental values about the truth that I think are vulnerable right now and it’s frightening.”
When there appears to be such blatant disregard for the facts today, does preserving history even matter? What’s the point?
“I do think it matters,” said Pader. “If for no other reason, we should do whatever we can to get the most accurate representation of history for accuracy’s sake.”