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  • S

    Samantha StankoApr 25, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    I’m going to go ahead and say that the Californian Historian probably won this argument–if there’s something to be won by this, anyway.

    What really interests me about this post (well, among other things) is Ben’s friend–I don’t know that I ever met Ben Sperry in real life, but I DO know that I reacted viscerally to his opinions because he DID come off to me as racist, sexist and homophobic. Your writing and opinions are sort of infuriating to me, but I’d like to think that, like Ben, you really are a compassionate and loving person despite your articles. You’ve stirred up a hell of a lot of discussion; kudos. Maybe one day we’ll meet in real life to discuss the travesty that is Twilight, which seems to be the only thing I can tell thus far that we’ve agreed on.

  • C

    CeeJApr 1, 2010 at 2:54 am

    Sorry, non-sequitur.

  • C

    CeeJApr 1, 2010 at 2:53 am

    I would hardly call this article extremely eloquent. Making assertion after assertion without elaboration is the exact opposite of eloquent imo, its just non-sequitor choppiness.

  • I

    IanMar 29, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Some Texans might want freedom, but according to the Huffington Post, only 18% of Texans would vote for secession and 31% believe they have the right to secede. That is hardly as you say “some liberals commenting on The Huffington Post article wave off Texas and tell it to secede. Many Texas citizens, frustrated by the federal superstructure’s demands, have supported this move for a long time.” Even if all 31% wanted secession, thats not a majority. Concerning McCarthy, is it a liberal agenda to support the rights of the first amendment? McCarthy contributed to prosecuting non-violent american citizens for expressing their constitutional right to practice communism. that is all, that is why he is slandered. was he an intelligent man, of course, but did he violate the ethics of the congress and the constitution, absolutely. I am not attacking you in this response, I am just wondering why you left out these numbers and observations because you criticize the Huffington Post and the Times for not mentioning facts as well: “Who is the nation’s biggest buyer of textbooks, anyway? California, the most regulated state in the nation. Neither the New York Times or HuffPo mention that.” just let me know

  • N

    Native Californian HistorianMar 19, 2010 at 11:19 am

    At least your misunderstanding of the California’s role in the textbook-buying business reinforces your lack of understanding of history and those who teach it, whether it is American history or any other sort.

    Re the first: California does buy more textbooks than other states — or did till it went bankrupt. You are correct there. HOWEVER, California does not buy in a single block; each district is independent, and different districts choose different textbooks. Until the 1990s, it might have been fair to say that California’s liberal political tendencies worked towards balancing against Texas’ conservative tendencies, but even that is not a clear picture. While California has become a much more politically heterogenous state, Texas has also become more conservative over all. And the Texas BoE makes the decisions of what will be taught in Texas.

    Re my second point: you seem to have little idea of the profession of history, or of what it is that good and reputable historians do. Good historians present the facts, and teach an interpretation of those facts. But we also teach how those interpretations are made, and it is our responsibility to teach other interpretations — when they are supported by evidence. This is not the same as giving equal time to other opinions: for example, there is no reason to give equal time to Holocaust Deniers — they have no case. But it is a reasonable and even necessary thing to mention that they exist and what their arguments are.

    This is most assuredly not what the Texas BoE — none of them professional historians who abide by a set of ethical standards in the field — want. They are including language that historians would not use, because it is heavily value-laden: professional historians try not to use such language, because it isn’t our job to convince others that people and events are good and bad. This is why we don’t let our students write papers on things like whether dropping the bomb on Hiroshima was a good thing. We might allow people to research the arguments for and against dropping the bomb, but that’s very different — that tells us a lot about the people who went through it and the values of the time.

    What the Texas BoE is trying to do is re-shape our values and will deny students the opportunity to learn about many important events. They are asking for a view of history that only supports a particular set of socio-political values at the expense of truth. For example, they have demanded that Thomas Aquinas, a 13th C Scholastic philosopher, and John Calvin, one of the founders of the Protestant Reformation, be taught in the same context as some Enlightenment thinkers — but not Thomas Jefferson, one of the founders of this country and a man whose works had direct influence on other revolutions of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Why? because Jefferson also supported the idea of the separation of Church and State.

    There are so many things wrong with this: the introduction of false causal relationships, the elimination of important issues and facts … what will happen when these students get to college and find that what they’ve been taught is substantially different from what college materials offer them? It’s very hard to unlearn half-truths. I’m a medieval historian by trade, and it’s incredibly hard to get my students to accept that the popular conceptions of the Middle Ages are really nothing like the reality.

    One last thing does come to mind — many college students’ experience of history comes from television and from high school history teachers. Some of those teachers may teach a politicized version of history that professional academic historians would frown upon. But having books that present a one-sided Christian, conservative, nationalist, and exceptionalist position will only make it easier for a teacher with an ax to grind. All that teacher will have to do is bring in a college-level textbook and show the differences. At that point, the history lesson will be gone, and the class will be discussing things best left to the political scientists. But really, if you want good history, and if you want a good, critically thinking and informed citizenry, supporting the actions of any group whose political agenda requires the sorts of changes demanded by the Texas BoE is no way to get it.

  • K

    Katie McHughMar 18, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Thank you, Ben’s friend, for the advice. I will definitely think it over.

  • B

    Ben's friendMar 18, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    One might think that you learned your trade from the great Ben Sperry, a 2009 graduate who loved to write conservative and offensive (one does not signify the other, but they certainly were both) columns for The Campus that infuriated students and professors alike. He was extremely eloquent, just like you. If you asked him why he did it, he’d tell you that it was because he loved to see the fire it lit and the discussion that it provoked.

    He was a million times more warm-hearted in person than he was in his columns. The problem is, despite what a wonderful person Ben was, he was always being judged by his columns around campus. People didn’t take the time to get to know him because he came off as racist, homophobic (although I know you hate that word), and incredibly offensive to even the most moderate of students at Allegheny. And can you blame the students for not wanting to bring someone who presented that image into their circle of friends? He received dirty looks in the Campus Center, and people didn’t want to sit by him in class. Unfortunately, his college experience was significantly tainted by the backlash of his inflammatory columns. While most Campus Conservatives thought he was funny, even many of their members had no desire to be associated with him. I can’t help but wonder if this is the Allegheny experience that you’re setting up for yourself as well. You may say that you don’t care if no one likes you because of your opinions, and that’s great. Ben said the same. But I promise you, by your senior year when you’re sitting alone at Brooks for dinner on a Friday night, you’ll care.

    Luckily for Ben, he was able to maintain a close circle of (very liberal) friends who understood what a kind person he really was. I hope this is the case for you too, Katie. I truly hope that you aren’t everything that you put forth in your columns, and that some students recognize that and give you a chance. If you are…well, you’re on your own. Quite literally.

  • K

    Katie McHughMar 18, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Hi, Erica. Don’t worry; I didn’t perceive anything you said as an attack of any sort. 😛

    I’ll have to read that book. McCarthy is an interesting guy. Right now, I have two books by him sitting on my shelf, but I don’t have time to read them. Thanks for offering yours, but I’m not sure when I’d be able to get it back to you, and I don’t want to tax your generosity. I’ll order it through the library or on Amazon later. Thanks for the rec.

    I don’t have much time, either, sorry! What I can give you are a few good sites to start with for un-learning history. Also, my view of history is by nooooo means complete. Also also, conservatives and liberals alike have skewed history to make themselves look good. The libs…well, let’s just say they’re a little more determined, a little more cutthroat, a little more aware of what’s going on and what they’re fighting for. Most of them, anyway.

  • E

    Erica BeldenMar 18, 2010 at 5:12 pm


    While I don’t have time to detail my opinions on this article, I’d like to recommend a book to you. Shooting Star: The Brief Arc of Joe McCarthy, by Tom Wicker. It’s an indifferent look at Senator McCarthy, detailing both the incredible work ethic that he possessed in his youth and his unraveling at the end of his career. I think you will find, that while you are correct in calling him an imperfect politician, he was not exactly “maligned into infamy by the Left’s agenda.” If you’d like, I have a copy of the book and am more than willing to lend it to you.

    Also, I’m neutrally interested in the sources you might cite in order to prove that our history books do not actually teach history, and that the liberal party is based on “falsehoods and fallacies.”

    To specify: I am NOT attacking you, please do not interpret this comment as such. I’m merely interested to know in what your beliefs about American history are grounded.

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