History News Network | What the Opponents of the New AP Standards Don’t Get

The authors of The Idea of America argue for a history that “empowers students to become engaged citizens of our 21st century nation” rather than the patriotic history that the opponents of the new AP guidelines are pushing for. “Central to teaching and learning history must be the ability to evaluate opposing ideas, the quest to balance democratic values, and compromise in policymaking. This requires cultivating the ‘democratic mind’ in students and citizens. The democratic mind does not see the world in terms of “either/or.” It is more sophisticated, constantly seeking a way to reconcile values that seem at odds with each other.” I believe that this is a more engaging and productive way of teaching history than the patriotic version that relies on a myopic view of history.

History News Network | What the Opponents of the New AP Standards Don’t Get.

The Idea of America

The Powerlessness of Positive Thinking – In These Times

Rick Perlstein argues that it is a streak of optimism that is at the heart of the opposition to the new AP History guidelines. While his insight points to a significant driving force in the “history wars,” I think that it is misleading. Those who are optimistic look to the future and predict good things. By contrast those who oppose so-called “liberal” history are concerned with the controlling the past and see threats to their worldview lurking everywhere. It is about the identity of the U.S. and thereby their own. They equate perfection (as they define it) with exceptionalism. To admit mistakes or failures is to claim that America is not exceptional. And by association it is also a blow to their own self-esteem. This is why they react so viscerally to any challenge to their version of U.S. history. Anyone who dares challenge their “exceptional” version of history must be driven by malicious intent and is automatically un-American. What they fail to realize is that what makes the U.S. exceptional is the willingness to reflect on the past honestly so that we can become an even better America, one that is prosperous and just.

The Powerlessness of Positive Thinking – In These Times.


The varieties of denialism

Massimo Pigliucci writes about what he learned at an interdisciplinary conference on denialism. I highly recommend reading this blog post because, as Massimo points out, “denialism in its various forms is a pernicious social phenomenon, with potentially catastrophic consequences for our society.”

Scientia Salon

Global-Warming-Denialism-04by Massimo Pigliucci

I have just come back from a stimulating conference at Clark University about “Manufacturing Denial,” which brought together scholars from wildly divergent disciplines — from genocide studies to political science to philosophy — to explore the idea that “denialism” may be a sufficiently coherent phenomenon underlying the willful disregard of factual evidence by ideologically motivated groups or individuals.

Let me clarify at the outset that we are not talking just about cognitive biases here. This isn’t a question of the human tendency to pay more attention to evidence supporting one’s view while attempting to ignore contrary evidence. Nor are we talking about our ability as intelligent beings to rationalize the discrepancy between what we want to believe and what the world is like. All of those and more affect pretty much all human beings, and can be accounted for and at the least partially dealt with in…

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History News Network | Hero Marine Dad Will Unleash Hell Itself If Daughter’s World History Class Says Muslims Are Real

This dad doesn’t actually say that he does not want his daughter to know that Muslims are real, but he did say that he doesn’t want his daughter to learn about Islam because it is “a faith he does ‘not believe in.’” He refuses to allow his daughter to do the assignments in her word history class even though she will receive zeros on those assignments (see Gazette.net). Wow! That’s just what we need: more ignorance!

History News Network | Hero Marine Dad Will Unleash Hell Itself If Daughter’s World History Class Says Muslims Are Real.

islamic history

History News Network | Review of Edmund Fawcett’s “Liberalism: The Life of an Idea”

Walter G. Moss’s book review of Edmund Fawcett’s book Liberalism might be of interest to some of you. The word “liberal” continues to mean different things to different people. This is partly due the ever evolving meaning of the word. Fawcett uses a broad definition of liberalism that would include those who we would call “liberal” today (such as FDR, John Rawls, and Paul Krugman), but in addition he includes those who might be considered “liberal” in its classic meaning (such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher). Therefore, Moss thinks that the question we must ask is “whether today, we wish to use the narrower evolved definition that Safire suggests or the broader, more inclusive one Fawcett maintains.” Although Moss “prefers the former—referring to Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan as liberals, as Fawcett does, just seems wrong—I’ll grant the logical consistency of his treatment.”
I think that the term loses its usefulness if it becomes so broad as to include all of the above individuals. But we all need to know the history of this term if we are to avoid the current confusion about the meaning of the term.

History News Network | Review of Edmund Fawcett’s “Liberalism: The Life of an Idea”.

liberalism by Edmund Fawcett

Pressure in Japan to Forget Sins of War – NYTimes.com

“Coming to terms with its militarist past has never been easy for Japan, which tried to set aside the issues raised by the war as it rebuilt itself into the peaceful, prosperous nation it is today. But pressure to erase the darker episodes of its wartime history has intensified recently with the rise of a small, aggressive online movement seeking to intimidate those like Mr. Mizuguchi who believe the country must never forget,” Martin Fackler by a far right nationalist group of “cyberactivists” known as Net Right to halt the erection of a memorial in the tiny village of Sarufutsu, where “[a]t least 80 Korean laborers died of abuse and malnutrition here as they built an airfield at the behest of the Japanese military during World War II.”  This group is using intimidation to stop what it sees as blights on the image of the nation.  Unfortunately, in this case they succeeded and work on the memorial came to a halt.

These nationalists believe that they are restoring honor to the Japanese nation but what is more honorable: Admitting your sins and trying to make amends or covering them up?

Pressure in Japan to Forget Sins of War – NYTimes.com.

japanese memorial to korean laborers WWII