What Is History For?Breaking News
tags: teaching history
Email from a reader:
I taught U.S. History and APUSH for 40 years. I never used a textbook that even mentioned the Tulsa Massacre. There was no reference in the AV material ancillary text. The College Board which governs the APUSH curriculum (which is very comprehensive) never included it in their outline.
It was never included in any post graduate course I took or in service program. This was only 100 years ago!
History is supposed to be about remembering. But it is also about forgetting and ignoring.
Which brings us to the ongoing fight over how to teach about racism. That debate tends to obscure the larger question we are wrestling with: What kind of history do we want?
That’s not a trivial question, because it revolves around the question of how societies describe themselves.
Decisions about what we teach and what we ignore are never value neutral. It is never merely the recitation of facts or dates. All societies tell their collective stories that define their identities.
So what kind of history do we want? Stories that make us feel good about ourselves? A tool for teaching patriotism? Or do we see it as an opportunity for exploring inconvenient truths that might lead to self-criticism (and possibly redemption)?
During the debate in Texas over teaching about the history of racism, one of the sponsors of the legislation said in a statement to the Texas Tribune that schools should emphasize “traditional history, focusing on the ideas that make our country great and the story of how our country has risen to meet those ideals.”
But what if our country has not always risen to meet those ideals?
Editor's note: H/T to Phil Carpenter, who reposted it on his site with some insightful commentary about the value of the work historians do.
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