Leaving Teaching History to Historians

Jerimi Suri recently defended  the teaching of History at UT and A&M (“Defending Democracy by Teaching History | RealClearPolitics“). Some think tanks consider the inclusion of readings on race, gender, class, etc to be some kind of bias in higher education.

There are several problems with taking these issues out of history. First, you can’t talk about American history or American politics without talking about freedom and equality. Those issues define the nation and our changing definition of those terms is at the heart of our nation’s history. Second, we talk disproportionately about slavery, gender inequality, and those kinds of issues because those kinds of conflicts make good stories and teach us a great deal. It’s similar to the reason why we spend a lot of time talking about wars. The clash or perspectives and the tests of wills brings many things into focus. Finally, we know that we have to deal with our failings as well as our triumphs. For a variety of reasons, these tragedies do not get much coverage in K-12 and it’s time to play a little catch-up when we get to college. I think everyone understands this at some fundamental level but that doesn’t make the process pleasant.

Hearing different perspectives is part of an education. I could barely stand the Marxist I had for microeconomics at UT. However, I spend a lot of time fussing about what he said and trying to figure out all the ways he was wrong. In the end, I learned much more from him than from the economics professor I had the semester before. Sometimes, listening to someone you agree with is the worst thing you can do.

Ultimately, we can not have the political powers in the state bullying educators to whitewash history. That’s too much like the old Soviet Union or the Communist Chinese and their “re-education” camps.

Not every college professor is unbiased. Every politician is. And, it’s not like those politicians don’t have a platform to make their views clear if they disagree with what others say. I think the nation is safe even if the government isn’t writing our history curriculum for our universities.