Sticks, Stones, and American Exceptionalism : We’re History

R. B. Bernstein, author of Thomas Jefferson and The Founding Fathers Reconsidered, examines the conservative mantra of American Exceptionalism and wonders “[h]ow are we to take these polemicists’ rhetoric seriously, when it celebrates a past and a nation that never was.” We can’t! As Bernstein points out: “Their vision of the nation is of one with a pure and virtuous past, with nothing to complain about or apologize for; of a nation that has always treated everyone fairly, justly, and equally; of a nation whose past is a triumph of justice and progress. To these critics, any critical thinking about that past, any investigation of its less savory elements, is hating America. To them, any acknowledgment that the nation’s record is less than sacrosanct, is hating America. Any attention to those who challenged American injustice or inequality, is hating America.”

Read the entire article at:

Sticks, Stones, and American Exceptionalism : We’re History.

(Thanks HNN for the pointer!)

The link to this cartoon no longer exists but it looks like it originated at truthdig.com

The link to this cartoon no longer exists but it looks like it originated at truthdig.com

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History News Network | The Myth of the Rational Actor

Isn’t it time that we get rid of this crazy myth! Susan J. Matt thinks that historians can help undermine this myth. She says: “It is time we recognize that rationality is an elusive quantity, defined and redefined by social habit and market forces, and that rational man is a chimera. His purported behavior has not held steady across the centuries, nor has his personality. Yet economists have clung to this abstraction because he is a convenient factor in their equations. Robert Heilbroner remarked, “Mathematics has given economics rigor, but alas, also mortis.” To breathe new life into their studies, economists should create a new homo economicus—one who acts on more than self- interest and whose emotions change over time. Such a creature may not fit into math equations as easily as the rational actor did, but he will more accurately reflect how and why individuals make the economic choices they do.”

History News Network | The Myth of the Rational Actor.

Homo Economicus

The Case for ‘American’ American History | Louise Mirrer

The president of the New-York Historical Society, Louise Mirrer, argues for a unified American history that incorporates diversity: “The case for teaching American American history has always been strong. But at a time when much of the world is in turmoil, that case is even more powerful. Many nations today are finding it difficult, if not impossible, to integrate different ethnic, religious and racial groups. That’s why it’s so important that our schools, colleges and museums should teach the unity of American history as well as the diversity. We must make sure that Americans honor their differences, but also know that they have a shared history — a history that is the indispensable basis for an inclusive, tolerant society.” I think this would be a more interesting and positive way to teach US history. What do you think?

The Case for ‘American’ American History | Louise Mirrer.

LBJ and Martin Luther King, Jr.

The New, More Patriotic AP History Test from Pat O’Brien and FOD News

This is a comical “More Patriotic AP history test” from Funny or Die. It’s just what the conservatives ordered! This is my favorite question:

It was okay to use civil disobedience tactics during the Boston Tea Party because:
a.) it was white people doing it
b.) just shut up, alright?
c.) hey, look over there! >>>>>>>>>>
d.) seriously, there’s this really cute dog doing something crazy! you’re missing it!!! >>>>>>>>>>>

To see the entire test go to:

The New, More Patriotic AP History Test from Pat O’Brien and FOD News.

american-flag

Japan crown prince warns on ‘correct’ history – Yahoo News

In an interview Naruhito, the crown prince of Japan, said: “Today when memories of war are set to fade, I reckon it is important to look back our past with modesty and pass down correctly the miserable experience and the historic path Japan took from the generation who know the war to the generation who don’t.” You go Naruhito! Whether he intended it or not, it was a rebuke against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s nationalist history that denies Japanese war crimes during WWII, particularly the use of comfort women.

Japan crown prince warns on ‘correct’ history – Yahoo News.

Crown Prince Naruhito

Crown Prince Naruhito

History News Network | Why History Matters


Charles Spencer writes about a very intriguing period of English history in Killers of the King. It was a time of religious conflict between the Calvinistic Puritans in Parliament and the Catholic-sympathizing Stuart monarchy at a time when the Protestant Church of England was the nominally established church. It was also partly a power struggle between Parliament and the Stuart monarchs (first James I and then his son Charles I), who seemed too fond of absolute monarchies. It was in this context that some powerful members of Parliament decided to try and behead Charles I as a traitor. Spencer insists that while “[t]his dramatic tale sounds far removed from today…it is not.” He explains: “Many of the killers of the king that I write about did what they did because they knew an obscure verse in the Old Testament Book of Numbers that justified their actions: it told them that, if a country is to end its bloodshed, “that Man of Blood” who started it all must be put to death. Organized religion still provides many with guidance that they believe to the end. Texts written many centuries earlier can be twisted to justify a course of action. History is about the past, but it resonates today. We never change. History is the story of man – past, present and future.” This is one reason, although not the only reason, why history matters.

History News Network | Why History Matters
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Killers of the King Spencer

A Letter Concerning Muslim Toleration – NYTimes.com

Mustafa Akyol  argues in The New York Times that it is time for Muslims to have their own Letter Concerning Toleration. I couldn’t agree more! He points out that many Muslims support harsh punishments for “heresy,” “blasphemy,” and other practices that are deemed offenses against Islam. However, within Western Christendom it took more than Locke’s influential Letter. Locke was only one (albeit an important one) of hundreds who wrote passionately against intolerance, both before and after him. And it took years of bloodshed, violence, and oppression before the idea of toleration took hold, and then only begrudgingly at first. This is not to say that Muslims should not take up the cause of toleration, but to say that it is going to take more than a Muslim John Locke. It will take a determined movement over a long period of time. I hope some Muslims will take up the challenge! Thanks for the suggestion Akyol!

A Letter Concerning Muslim Toleration – NYTimes.com.

Locke A Letter Concerning Toleration

Oklahoma Lawmakers Vote Overwhelmingly To Ban Advanced Placement U.S. History | ThinkProgress

Oklahoma makes Arizona seem reasonable (at least for now!). There is a new bill in Oklahoma intended to defund AP U.S. History. Conservatives complain that students are taught only a negative view of America.  Apparently they want students to be indoctrinated in a patriotic history that ignores what actually happened!

From Think Progress: “Oklahoma Rep. Dan Fisher (R) has introduced ’emergency’ legislation ‘prohibiting the expenditure of funds on the Advanced Placement United States History course.’ Fisher is part of a group called the “Black Robe Regiment” which argues ‘the church and God himself has been under assault, marginalized, and diminished by the progressives and secularists.’ The group attacks the ‘false wall of separation of church and state.’ The Black Robe Regiment claims that a ‘growing tide of special interest groups indoctrinating our youth at the exclusion of the Christian perspective.’”

Oklahoma Lawmakers Vote Overwhelmingly To Ban Advanced Placement U.S. History | ThinkProgress.

apush