Bunker Mulligan "Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry." ~Mark Twain

January 26, 2005

American History

Filed under: Education — Bunker @ 7:24 am

My darling wife bought me a couple of books for Christmas–always a welcome gift in the Mulligan household. One that she was particularly proud of finding for me is Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. After reading a couple of chapters, I went to the bookshelf and picked up an old American History book, Conceived in Liberty written by Marshall Smelser and Harry Kirwin, professors of history at Notre Dame and Loyola respectively. It was first published in 1955. My revision is from 1959.

I have this book because I love American History. It was not my textbook, but I believe it is an earlier version of the one I had in school. Many of the illustrations are very familiar, and so is the layout.

What is striking to me, though, is the sense of the book compared to those used in schools today. From the Preface:

An ideal has been in the minds of those who co-operated to write and produce Conceived in Liberty. They aimed at the highest possible standards of accuracy in stating facts and in a truthful, impartial interpretation of them, while at the same time they wished to accomodate the book successfully to right principles of pedagogy and practical classroom study. The style of writing was to be well adapted to the minds of young people, but not in the spirit of condescending to them, and not without a lively challenge to them to improve their taste and ability at reading.

I read the first two chapters last night, and it is a wonder read. If our history interests you and you can locate a copy, grab it. I checked Powell’s for a used copy, but no luck. It’s one you’ll probably only find at a garage sale or local used book store.

What strikes me most about it is the parallel to Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. We have reached the point in our education system where a good, unbiased history of this country is considered to be politically incorrect! How does something like that happen? High school history should be providing fact to students to use as a base for their own further analysis as they read more in their lives. High school history should be teaching students an appreciation of people who accomplished great things, set in context of the time.

I intend to continue reading these two books together.

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