There’s something I want to get off my chest. It’s about whether Blue Book Diaries is a left-wing blog, and about whether my teaching is left-wing instruction.
I have been ruminating on this since I discovered recently that a stranger on Facebook has repeatedly called me a “commie”—ironically, because I said the Trump era is a good time to teach history.
Similarly, my most popular post here, which has drawn more than 10,000 hits, has been denounced as leftist propaganda. After I posted it in June, during the protests after George Floyd’s death, it elicited a stream of angry messages. An email I received from Greg, who was using an IP address in West Texas, will give you a pretty good idea of the general mood. Here is the full text:
I’m not sure how extensive someone’s intellectual exploration can be if something I wrote is the leftmost thing they’ve encountered. Nevertheless, that seemed to be a common impression among those who were displeased—even though the blogpost in question is overtly patriotic and even pro-military.
To be thus politically pigeonholed, in such disregard for the actual content of work I spend a lot of time crafting? It rankles. I have been successfully rankled. And I think it’s time for me to address this problem.
What I write today is unlikely to have much positive effect on Greg—or on anybody else who believes insurgent is an ethnonym. But it might be soothing to other history teachers who are feeling a bit out of joint.
You see, I suspect that many of us working in U.S. educational institutions see our own work as deeply conservative, at the same time that today’s organized political right is attacking us for supposedly “hating our country” and “breeding contempt for America’s heritage.”
Such attacks notwithstanding, many of us are proudly doing exactly what our predecessors have done for generations. We are teaching history in a politically conscious but nonpartisan way, out of a sense of respect for the past and concern for our communities in the present, and we are using methods pragmatically adapted to the needs of our students and the results of historical scholarship.
With that in mind, let me identify some of the aspects of my own history teaching that I think are fundamentally conservative.
But first, I should explain what that term means.Continue reading “The Conservatism of My Teaching: Seven Elements”