Reflection: Ethical dilemmas, Part I

The purposeful ignorance of the Sons of Confederate Veterans did not surprise me. It was their influence on other parties that caught me unaware. That anyone would write a history book based mostly on Internet research quickly makes me wary, but to rely on cites written by so obviously bias individuals is nearly shameful! As a high school student I had an especially proactive teacher who took the time to point out the mistakes in our textbook and make us question what we were taught as “Truth.” I remember laughing with my class at the positive characterization of the book defeated General Custer who fought bravely until his death. History that was local to us earned a poorly researched paragraph in our textbook. When people complain about the lack of quality in the US education system perhaps the education department should start with raising the quality of literature being used to teach. Perhaps actual historians should write the history books? I would assume biologists would write the biology textbook, but maybe this is too high of an expectation. While it may be easier said than done, one quick fix here is to allow historians to write history textbooks or at least allow the creation of a collaborative textbook.

The “Conservative class” article actually got my blood pressure up as much as anything else. When I started reading I applauded those wanting to learn more about their constitution since most people in the US wouldn’t even be able to explain what the Bill of Rights is. The more I read, of course, the more upset I became. Hiding the continuation of ignorance under the guise of furthering people’s knowledge is horrible! I love studying the founding era and what the motivation was behind the different decisions made at the time. For someone to create a conference claiming to have the answers in his research of the Founding Fathers while glossing over or simply ignoring certain facts defeats the entire purpose. The unfortunate fact is that this man has every right to conduct the different conferences and to present his information in any light he wants. The constitution he ‘teaches’ also protects his freedom of speech and right to gather. As a historian I have equal right to call him out on his falsehoods, but the effectiveness of that action is questionable. I fear charlatan ‘teachers’ will always be the bane of a historian’s┬álife. Like the man who wrote the letter to the museum about the mistakes, it is unlikely that our ‘helpful suggestions’ will always be taken well.

I do think, however, that historians who have enough knowledge to counter falsehoods do have a duty to at least attempt to help. Our corrections may not always be welcomed, but that doesn’t mean that we should just give up at the first angry response letter. Our actions, however, really should be done in a helpful spirit instead of one of conflict.


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