This historian makes it clear that he thinks we should remove Confederate monuments and asks: “If we actually do learn a lot of our history from monuments (a dubious proposition worth questioning), what precisely are people gaining, knowledge-wise, from the massive numbers of Confederate ones, deliberately placed among the descendants of slaves and slave owners?” I’ll respond to these comments quickly. Trust me, we do learn from monuments, just read this, for one example. More importantly, what we can potentially gain “knowledge-wise” if new signs are used to contextualize the monuments is an understanding of the way the Civil War was remembered by previous generations, how it was used by them to set a social, cultural, and political agenda, the impact those interpretations/memories had in setting that agenda, and how it has changed over time. If that isn’t clear, than I have to question someone’s understanding of the value of history and of public history. The placing of the monuments has a history of its own, and THAT is the history that would be erased. (And don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that ALL Rebel monuments should stay up. I think this has to be decided on a case-by-case basis, and that those that do stay up should be contextualized).
And while we are on controversial subjects, in the wake of the news about the updates to the AP US history standards, Donald Shaffer has come out swinging, insisting that the new standards are just a symptom of the “greed and deceit” in the organization behind the AP classes and exams. On his regular blog site, he’s revealed himself as the author of an essay (that was originally posted under a pseudonym) about the “real problem with advanced placement U.S. history.” Because he is a former employee of the people that administer the standards and the tests, he has a lot to say about the fact that they are a business focused on turning a profit and that this has tainted their educational value and successes. (He briefly points out something I remarked upon yesterday when writes: “increasingly APUSH classes are being taught by lower-quality high school instructors with little interest in the course or encouraging their students to do well on the national exam.”) He calls for higher accountability, because they sell “APUSH [classes] as an experience sufficiently comparable to college-level classes that institutions of higher education should grant either three or even six units of U.S. History credit on the basis of its exam. As this essay makes clear, the vast majority of students taking the APUSH exam probably do not deserve this credit, and only get it because of the apparent manipulation of test scores by CB/ETS.” Compelling reading.
Tonight we have a “blue moon,” and I’ve heard my local news pass along faulty information about what that is. This sets the record straight.
Here’s a report from the public history frontlines on the National Park Services’ broadening of interpretation at Civil War battlefields (in this case, at Fredericksburg.
And lastly, just in time for your weekend reading pleasure, We’re History has a brief history of “Six Famous American Executions.”