Kirkus Reviews QR Code
HISTORY ON TRIAL by Gary B. Nash

HISTORY ON TRIAL

Culture Wars and the Teaching of the Past

By Gary B. Nash (Author) , Charlotte Crabtree (Author) , Ross E. Dunn (Author)

Pub Date: Sept. 29th, 1997
ISBN: 0-679-44687-7
Publisher: Knopf

 Three meticulous observers explore who decides what history gets taught to high-school students, with close attention to the current controversy over multiculturalism. When Lynne Cheney was head of the National Endowment for the Humanities, her organization funded a large and ambitious project to develop national standards for the study of history in high schools. Nash (History/UCLA), Crabtree (Education/UCLA), and Dunn (History/San Diego State Univ.) were all closely associated with the attempt to formulate a coherent, representative model of what ``American high school students should understand about American and world history.'' But when the study appeared in 1994, Cheney was the first to vilify it publicly as an exercise in political correctness. Crabtree, Nash, and Dunn delve deeply and lucidly into the background of this highly contentious, highly politicized affair (high-school history as a patriotic indoctrination into an unchanging national essence vs. high-school history as a way of learning to make critical differentiations about thorny, mutable issues). In addition, they show that the debate about what kind of history should be learned in school has always been contentious and acrimonious.The authors--who staunchly defend the national standards they helped to establish, as well as the concept of history as a distinct discipline--also clarify the often aloof relationship between practicing historians in universities and the teachers of history in high schools. Finally, the authors deliver sensible, judicious, nuanced discussions of buzzwords (multiculturalism, Afrocentrism, identity politics) that have become confusing, and discuss the now loaded idea of Western civilization. A provocative, detailed, and illuminating explanation of how we got into the so-called ``culture wars'' and what is at stake in them. Essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the relationship between history as an intellectual discipline and as a subject in school. (8 illustrations, not seen)