U.S. History as a Political Football?
History is one of those subjects that politicians and the general public are never going to leave to historians alone. I’ve got no problem with that, if those doing it follow basic rules of evidence and have a decent sense of what historical thinking is. I wish those proclaiming what they take to be the truth of history were more interested in discovering that truth than reshaping history to illustrate their own political beliefs. Such a phenomenon is not new, but the current trend among some conservatives to rewrite American history to fit their image of America today is irksome at best, downright troubling at worst, especially if such “history” enters the classroom.
For a taste of this phenomenon, read Steven Thomma, Not satisfied with U.S. history, some conservatives are rewriting it (McClatchy Newspapers). You might want to view the video on that page too. It would be interesting to find a longer piece in a venue that permitted footnotes to lead to further reading, but I suspect most academic historians do not take these rewritings of history seriously enough to address them. Such battles over history will be fought in the media instead, the standard of truth frequently being ideological purity. Let the buyer beware.
[I initially wrote this piece for my History 100 students, but it belongs here too.]