I want to talk about two pieces of writing that have appeared online in the last few days. Both focus on the role Thomas Jefferson should play in the way we imagine American history.
One article comes from a very thoughtful historian who wants U.S. history to have something to offer everyone in America. The other is a thinly veiled racist conspiracy theory.
I think talking about them together could be illuminating.
First, in the new issue of the Hedgehog Review, Johann Neem, a historian of education, expresses concern about what he calls “post-American” narratives of United States history. An immigrant from India, Neem discusses his fear that contemporary educators are being drawn to historical narratives denying that American heritage, in anything like its traditional form, can belong to everyone.
Another way of putting this, I suppose, is that Neem takes up the question of whether it’s still appropriate to teach the history—a single inclusive history, handed down from prior generations—of a united American nation. Perversely, Neem argues, some educators may be (accidentally) joining forces with white supremacists by claiming that America has only ever been, and thus can only be, a white nation.Continue reading ““Inherently Corrupt and Possibly Unsalvageable””