Saturday, September 19, 2009

Readings: September 21 or undergrad stats class finally pays off

I will probably expend my entire posting for this week's readings (as well as possibly a couple other posts in the future) about the Rosenzweig and Thelen reading. The essays/chapters were also informative and sometimes fun, but I found the larger text perhaps the most fascinating and the most thought provoking.

The authors' use the argument that Americans do not care or do not know about history as their jumping off point for their research, a point they disprove. Despite the convincing data presented in support, I think their interpretation of the original concept is slightly off. Rosenzweig quotes an address from the AHA in 1989, regarding the ignorance of americans towards history. I think that the president of the AHA was not stressing so much the idea that Americans are devoid of general historical knowledge or interest thereof, which is what R/T argue, but that they are ignorant of or uninterested in the prescribed historical narrative which any publicly educated American would have been introduced to (An ignorance R/T explain through the disdain/disinterest in history as taught in schools). They demonstrate that people are interested in history, but the respondents do not necessarily exhibit knowledge of that prescribed narrative. This then begs the question of is the currently prescribed narrative something that should continue to be propagated? Does the narrative that is repeated in the school system need to be changed to be more accessible, possibly stressing more interesting/accessible individual and collective histories as apposed to the chronological narrative now presented? What are the goals of continuing this narrative, and what would be the disadvantages to changing it? I would be interested to see if there would be different responses to capital H History (read: the stuff in school) if this survey was given again, given the purposeful changes in school history pedagogy and curriculum over the last 20 or so years.

Thelen and Rosenweig support Becker's claim that everyone is a historian, but construct a more concrete outline than Becker. The answers and data derived from the respondents demonstrate that the public does function within standard historiography frame works that dominate the history profession. For instance, the public worry about bias, sources, trustworthiness, impact and collective vs. individual histories. All things that any academic historian worries themselves with. However, Thelen/Roswenzweig also provide some argument for why professional historians are necessary, but stress that they need to function somewhat within the framework in which the public is working.

and I still did do my readings at work this week, but I brought my camera along, and caught a surprise outside while working/reading at Washington's Headquarters. British Fusiliers come to Vafo once a year. It's a treat for both the visitors and the staff, and makes the day a little more fun. But not for any feelings of existential authenticity.

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