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Texas Right-Wingers Want Their History Taught 'Politics Free'

Two academic groups stage an attack on the teaching of history through a race, class and gender lens.

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And what of the politics of this “depoliticized history”? Apparently, the political goal of the NAS to escape the prison of the narrow interpretation is not political. Or maybe it’s a political judgment in the service of transcending politics. Or maybe it just doesn’t make any sense to take a partisan position and claim that one isn’t partisan.

The report continues:

The dominance of race, class, and gender themes in history curricula came about through disciplinary mission creep. Historians and professors of United States history should return to their primary task: handing down the American story, as a whole, to future generations.

It would be interesting to find how the report’s authors came to understand the “disciplinary mission” of history (maybe it was revealed to them in a vision), but—sorry to have to repeat myself—any description of the mission of history has an underlying politics.

I don’t know if NAS scholars actually believe there is an “American story” that can be told from a neutral point of view, or whether this is merely a cynical debating tactic. But if we are going to address the very real problems facing the contemporary university, attempts at imposing ideology by claiming to be beyond ideology aren’t likely to help clarify problems or help generate solutions.

 

Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. He is the author of Arguing for Our Lives (City Lights, 2013) and All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice (Soft Skull Press, 2009) among other works. He can be reached at rjensen@austin.utexas.edu. Twitter: @jensenrobertw.