Feature

The ‘truth’ about history is elusive

Let’s be honest: “Americans disagree—vehemently—about the making and meaning of our nation,” and what most of us want is for our view to prevail, said Jonathan Zimmerman in the Los Angeles Times.

Jonathan Zimmerman
Los Angeles Times

What version of history is true? asked Jonathan Zimmerman. The Texas Board of Education has decided to give students a version filtered through the board’s own, conservative worldview; thus, periods of American “imperialism” become “expansionism,” and Joe McCarthy was right about the government’s being infiltrated by communists.

My fellow liberals, of course, are horrified, but the truth is that textbooks are already filled with bias—liberal bias. In most history textbooks, the country was created through the sins of slavery, racism, and genocide. The good guys are the progressives and the architects of the New Deal and the Great Society; the bad guys are traditionalists and the religious.

So let’s be honest: “Americans disagree—vehemently—about the making and meaning of our nation,” and what most of us want is for our view to prevail. There’s an alternative, if we have the guts: Require every student to read both the liberal A People’s History of the United States and the conservative A Patriot’s History of the United States. Then let the kids sort out which version of history sounds most true to them.

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