“Frankly Dumb” or “Absolutely Correct”? You Decide

Crystal Plum

Since its debut on January 10, 2013, NAS’s report “Recasting History: Are Race, Class, and Gender Dominating American History?” has generated widespread debate among journalists, bloggers, and academics. Here are some of the most significant commentaries and reactions to the report. The links below introduce the controversy and major arguments surrounding the report. We invite you to keep the conversation going; read the report, take a look at what others are saying, and contribute your own insights and observations in response.

Unbiasing American History
February 13, 2013
By Ashley Thorne – First Things

"Our report calls precisely for recognition of historical complexity and the presentation, within the limits of freshman and sophomore history courses, of something closer to a comprehensive account. That’s a history that includes slavery and abolitionists, but also international treaties, financial booms and busts, the transformation of an agricultural nation into an industrial one, trusts and trust-busting, insurrections and wars, great ideas from Jonathan Edwards to William James, the changing role of government in citizens’ lives, technological breakthroughs from the cotton gin to the atom bomb, and the claims and contentions of faith among the American people."

Race/Gender Historians on the Defense
February 4, 2013
By Mark Bauerlein – Minding the Campus

"The NAS study fulfills the requirements of "reasoned discourse."  It has an ordinary aim (to determine relative emphases in basic history instruction) and it derives an objective conclusion.  Historians may dispute the design, method, and interpretations, but professionalism calls for respectful disagreement, not easy distortions and demeaning associations."

Academics Should Make Academic Decisions
February 1, 2013
By Richard Fonte – Austin-American Stateman 

"The 1971 legislature understood these differences and the state’s common core also understands that courses with the same titles are very different at the pre-collegiate level. The UT history department should recognize this obvious fact and begin the process to renew and reinvigorate its survey course offerings."

Comment on UT's Statement
January 31, 2013
By Richard Pells – UT Statement

"I would recommend a genuine debate about these issues, rather than continued denials that any problem exists."

Comment on Suri's article in Alcade
January 30, 2013
By John Sepehri – Alcalde

“Dr. Suri should have solemnly engaged the very serious and disturbing findings NAS has raised. [...] But Dr. Suri’s churlish dismissal of serious concerns that the foundational and traditional aspects of US history are receiving short shrift do not deserve serious consideration except in one respect, as far as I am concerned. That is, this is one Plan II and UT Law alum that is now seriously leaning to steering his young daughter to Texas A&M over the University. All thanks to Dr. Suri’s offensive and intolerant lack of respect for concerns many serious, sincere, and well educated UT alums hold.”

The Historians Strike Back
January 30, 2013
By Samuel Goldman – The American Conservative: State of the Union

“In defending the Texas courses, however, Grossman and Carey miss the real point of the NAS study. The argument is not that any particular work focusing on race, class, and gender is inappropriate. Rather, it’s that many students receive their only college-level instruction in American history from courses and sources that devote minimal attention to its central events, figures, and ideas.” 

An Undisciplined Report on the Teaching of History
January 28, 2013
By James Grossman and Elaine Carey – The Chronicle of Higher Education

“Despite its denunciation of ‘ideologically partisan approaches,’ the report itself is based on an idiosyncratic and ideologically driven taxonomy…with little knowledge of the scholarly literature and even less inclination to engage historians in serious conversation about our work.…the report betrays a limited understanding of the nature of historical scholarship and the collaborative ethos of historians who work in different fields and see the past in different ways.”

Pells: A Fresh Examination of History is in Order
January 23, 2013
By Richard Pells – Austin-American Statesman

“I am neither conservative nor a member of the NAS. But I am an American historian who taught at UT from 1971 to 2011. And based on my own experiences at UT, I believe the report’s main arguments are absolutely correct.”

America the Racist, Sexist, and Classist
January 21, 2013
By Bruce Bawer – Front Page Mag

“I would go just a teensy bit further: to use the materials named in this report to ‘teach’ American history is to deliberately reject the job of informing and educating students…America’s kids – and America’s future – deserve better.”

Burnett: Don't Ignore History Basics
January 21, 2013
By Daniel Burnett – Austin-American Statesman

“As interesting as these topics are, they cannot alone tell the history of America…There’s no problem with niche courses — in fact, they make a college education more vibrant — but not at the expense of a working knowledge of the Constitution.” 

Response to Professor Neuberger on Recasting History
January 18, 2013
By Peter Wood – National Association of Scholars

“The report wasn’t shaped by assumptions but by the observed realities. […] We aren’t looking to replace one form of partisanship with another but with a sturdy effort to avoid partisanship. Imagine that.”

Is History Being Taught Correctly?
January 14, 2013
KTRH 740, Morning Moment with Matt Patrick
With guests Thomas Lindsay and Jeremy Suri

Suri: “The report never came and examined what we do in our classes…it mis-categorized the work that we do…the issues they’re criticizing us for teaching are crucial to American history.”

Lindsay: “We did everything we could to bend over backwards to be fair in this report. All we wanted to see was whether UT was honoring the 1971 law…but what we found was that…one area of American history is over-emphasized to the exclusion of others.”

From the Editor: On the Report by the National Association of Scholars about US History at UT
January 13, 2013
By Joan Neuberger – Not Even Past 

“..the study was so poorly researched and its conclusions are so flawed, that one is forced to ask whether the goal was simply to attack the teaching of histories that include race, class, and gender…If a student turned in this study to a college level course, I suspect they would be asked, at the very least, to rethink the questions they are asking and to do more research.” 

A Gloomy Report on the Teaching of U.S. History
January 11, 2013
By KC Johnson – Minding the Campus

“The failing of a central mission of the study of U.S. history—training future generations of American citizens—is, argues the NAS, based in a misunderstanding of the central mission of colleges and universities.”

University of Texas at Austin Statement on National Association of Scholars Report
January 10, 2013
By David Ochsner – UT Statement

“We use different lenses to look at history — the notion that you can’t look at things through these lenses is a profound misreading of what history does. Teaching race, class and gender topics is not ideological, but rather true to the craft of history. It helps broaden our understanding of American society by adding new voices and perspectives to the rich American story.”
 
What Kind of History Should We Teach?
January 9, 2013
By Jeremi Suri – Alcalde 

“The National Association of Scholars report seems to demand a simple and one-sided history of just a few people. What we are teaching at UT, in almost all of our history and related courses, is a plural history of how many different people and parts of America relate to one another. What we are teaching is the beauty, the color, the promise, and also the challenge of contemporary."f

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