Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Fox News Assault on Teaching American History

Has the study of history returned to the front lines of the culture war in America? Yes, if Fox News has anything to say about it. The Fox morning show, Fox and Friends, is running a series of segments about "bias" in American history textbooks. The series seems to have been prompted by the publication of University of Dayton professor Larry Schwiekart's book 48 Liberal Lies About American History (That You Probably Learned in School).

In this particular segment, Schwiekart and the host of Fox and Friends, Steve Doocy, go after Teaching American History: Essays Adapted from the Journal of American History, 2001-2007, edited by Gary Kornblith and Carol Lasser, the editors of the teaching and textbooks section of the Journal of American History. The book includes articles on teaching by a host of leading American historians and also includes essays by Lendol Calder and Sam Wineburg, two experts of pedagogy who I have devoted a lot of coverage to on this blog.

Watch the segment for yourself:

First off, Teaching American History is not a textbook, it is a group of essays designed to appeal to teachers, not students.

Second, almost any legitimate historian--liberal or conservative-- would agree with the authors of this text that "history is not a set of fixed facts, figures, and events." Schwiekart, I would like to think, knows better than to allow Doocy to mock this assertion. And to make it worse, he adds fuel to the fire by agreeing with him.

In the meantime, I would encourage all of those interested in teaching to get your hands on a copy of Teaching of American History. I have read most of these essays when they first appeared in the Journal of American History and can attest to their high quality and helpful suggestions for how to be a better teacher of American history.