E. Scott Cracraft - I carry a history degree (FOR TUESDAY, MAY 16)

  • Published in Columns

Over the years, The Sun has published numerous letters attacking education and especially, the educators who do the teaching. Of course, there are “bad” teachers. But, they are only a small part of the problems that face American education. There is plenty of responsibility to go around. Still, teachers and professors are easy targets since they comprise the bottom of the academic “food chain.”
Many academic areas are now under attack by some socio-political conservatives. Even the natural sciences are not immune. For years, geologists, biologists, anthropologists and even physicists have been questioned by fundamentalist Christians who subscribe to Creation “science.” In more recent years, the overwhelming majority of legitimate climatologists have been challenged by climate change-deniers funded by those who wish it weren’t happening.
This is part of a bigger problem: in America, since we believe all people are equal, many have come to the false conclusion that all ideas are created equal. In other words, “my ignorance is as good as your knowledge. As this writer has stated before, there are two types of ignorance: innocent and willful.
Of course, the social sciences and humanities have also been attacked as promoting radical social and political agendas. Many conservatives would like to revise the curricula for those subjects so students do not learn to think critically or to question conservative views and paradigms.
Some seem to think that historians and history instructors should not follow a philosophy or theoretical model in their discipline. These people seem to believe that students should not be subject to meaningful education that will create critical thinkers but only people to parrot what they think they should believe.
When someone writes something like this, they are attacking my favorite academic discipline. That’s where I come in. My name’s Cracraft and I carry an advanced history degree.
All academic disciplines have different underlying approaches, methodologies, theoretical frameworks, and paradigms. Historians are no different. The majority, though, try to expose students to a variety of perspectives. As for this writer’s philosophy of history, he believes in the interconnectedness of history and at looking at the “big picture” while at the same time looking at the “little pieces” of the historical puzzles.
Many who denigrate history teachers may have found history “boring” in high school. One cannot blame them if they were taught history as the rote memorization of dates with no real awareness of the events and forces behind those dates.
Some favor “agenda history.” This is true of both the political right and left but in recent years it has come more from the right. Agenda history is when you write things into history and out of history to support a particular agenda or what you think people should learn. Agenda history is historical revisionism. An example is those who deny the Holocaust happened in the face of all evidence that it did happen.
While Holocaust denial is an extreme example, many more American conservatives who want schools and colleges to teach “pink fuzzy bunny history.” This is avoiding anything negative in American history. In some states, they are trying to ban certain history books. In others, conservatives want history books and curricula rewritten to support their political agendas. They do not want students to learn about certain things.
They would like students to falsely believe that America was founded as a “Christian” nation. Or, that the USA has always supported freedom and democracy around the world. Or, they want teachers to downplay the sordid history of race and labor relations in this country.
Do they also want teachers to teach that Davey Crockett actually killed a bear at the age of 3? Perhaps they actually believe the Puritans came to New England to establish religious liberty for all? Or, that George Washington really chopped down his dad’s prize cherry tree and would not lie about it?
As for “Honest Abe,” this writer also has his doubts. Lincoln was both a lawyer and a politician. It is at least possible stretched or colored the truth a bit from time to time.
(Scott Cracraft is a citizen, a taxpayer, a veteran, and a resident of Gilford.)