Head of the N-Y Historical Society says we need an “American” American History

Historians in the News
tags: New-York Historical Society

Louise Mirrer joined the New-York Historical Society as President and CEO in June 2004. Under her guidance, the Society is reinvigorating its commitment to foster greater public understanding of history and its impact on the world of today, to support and encourage historical scholarship, and to develop education initiatives for young people, students, and adults.

If you think Americans aren't interested in anything that happened before the invention of Twitter, try asking this question the next time you're having dinner with friends: What should our schools teach about U.S. history?

I can almost guarantee a long, heated discussion -- because even people who aren't in the habit of reading history books, or can't remember what the Thirteenth Amendment did, feel that the teaching of history matters deeply. As a professional in the field, who directs the New-York Historical Society, I think that's a good thing, even though the conversation sometimes becomes contentious. We care about the history that's taught because we care about how we define ourselves as a nation.

That's why I have to ask a second question: Is there still a place in our schools for an American American history?

The question might seem odd -- unless you know, for example, that public school teachers in California are required to include Native American history, African American history, Mexican American history, Asian American history, LGBT history and persons with disabilities history, in their U.S. history curricula. Closer to home, I can recall what happened a decade ago when the City University of New York filled a new set of faculty positions in American history. (As a Vice Chancellor of the CUNY system, I had been instrumental in making those jobs available.) Most of the positions went to people who specialized in Asian American, African American, Latino American, Native American or American Women's history. 

Many of these faculty members argued that the material traditionally taught in U.S. history courses would be irrelevant to CUNY students, who come from all over the world. What could George Washington possibly have to say, they asked, to students who are new Americans? ...

Read entire article at Huffington Post

comments powered by Disqus