March 28, 2016
Word: The decline of history
Ron Briley, History News Network - As I retire after forty years of teaching history I find myself concerned about the future of a discipline so essential for establishing some sense of meaning in our complex technological age. During my tenure as a teacher, curriculum issues were often the source of considerable controversy as some parents pushed for a grand master narrative celebrating American exceptionalism and chafed at the complexities introduced into the story by considerations of race, gender, and social class. Although these debates were sometimes intense, I recognize that I did share some common ground with the advocates of American exceptionalism. We both believed that history was important and crucial for understanding the American experience as well as the world. The conclusions we drew from the study of history were often quite different, but these discussions over the interpretation of historical events provided a good model for students in how to handle controversial issues within a democratic framework. My fear, however, is that concerns over the history curriculum will recede as the discipline becomes increasingly perceived as irrelevant for our technological age.