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History on Trial: Culture Wars and the Teaching of the Past unknown Edition

3.3 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0679767503
ISBN-10: 0679767509
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The authors of History On Trial never would have imagined that they'd get caught up in a highly partisan national controversy. In 1992 they were enlisted by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to draw up standards for the teaching of history in America's schools. And in 1994, before their work was even published, it came under blistering attack from the political right. In History on Trial the professors argue that their work was hideously distorted and turned into a shockingly nasty political issue by agitators such as Rush Limbaugh and Lynne Cheney (who had been director of the NEH when the project to create curriculum guidelines was begun). In presenting their story, Gary B. Nash, Charlotte Crabtree, and Ross E. Dunn may go into too much detail for a general reader, but that is perhaps a necessary byproduct of fully presenting their case. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

Three meticulous observers explore who decides what history gets taught to high-school students, with close attention to the current controversy over multiculturalism. When Lynne Cheney was head of the National Endowment for the Humanities, her organization funded a large and ambitious project to develop national standards for the study of history in high schools. Nash (History/UCLA), Crabtree (Education/UCLA), and Dunn (History/San Diego State Univ.) were all closely associated with the attempt to formulate a coherent, representative model of what ``American high school students should understand about American and world history.'' But when the study appeared in 1994, Cheney was the first to vilify it publicly as an exercise in political correctness. Crabtree, Nash, and Dunn delve deeply and lucidly into the background of this highly contentious, highly politicized affair (high-school history as a patriotic indoctrination into an unchanging national essence vs. high-school history as a way of learning to make critical differentiations about thorny, mutable issues). In addition, they show that the debate about what kind of history should be learned in school has always been contentious and acrimonious.The authors--who staunchly defend the national standards they helped to establish, as well as the concept of history as a distinct discipline--also clarify the often aloof relationship between practicing historians in universities and the teachers of history in high schools. Finally, the authors deliver sensible, judicious, nuanced discussions of buzzwords (multiculturalism, Afrocentrism, identity politics) that have become confusing, and discuss the now loaded idea of Western civilization. A provocative, detailed, and illuminating explanation of how we got into the so-called ``culture wars'' and what is at stake in them. Essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the relationship between history as an intellectual discipline and as a subject in school. (8 illustrations, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; unknown edition (April 18, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679767509
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679767503
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #393,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Roger D. Launius VINE VOICE on July 31, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Begun in 1989 as a bi-partisan initiative to enhance the teaching of K-12 history to America's students, the authors of this book--Gary B. Nash, Charlotte Crabtree, and Ross E. Dunn--along with many others, prepared a set of guidelines and teaching examples that would guide instructors in the preparation of their classes. "History on Trial" is largely about the effort to prepare the guidelines and the furor that they caused in the mid-1990s, although there is a discussion in the early part of the book about the "culture wars" in general in the latter twentieth century.

Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and aided by the Department of Education, the effort to develop these National Standards at UCLA's National Center for History in the Schools derailed in 1994 because of a conservative attack that characterized the effort as "hijacked" by political correctness and the agenda of the American Left. Led by Lynne Cheney, former head of the NEH, and aided by conservative commentators ranging from Rush Limbaugh to William Bennett to Charles Krauthammer, conservatives criticized the work of a large community of historians and teachers who developed these voluntary standards. They questioned the effort to challenge students to consider new ways of seeing the past, they criticized the reexamination of traditional interpretations, they abhorred a more multicultural and questioning approach to delving into history. It was during this era that "revisionist history" first entered the lexicon as a term of derision, as if understanding of the past could never be altered in any way.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The culture wars of history are fascinating. Unfortunately, they are still with us. How we interpret the past will always be a matter of contention as the juxtaposition between memory and reality collide. Unfortunately, the way American politics work conflicts with the actual intelligent development of national standards and all levels of education. The culture wars of history go back many years, but the battle in the 90s was particularly nasty just like it is today. The sad thing is that the culture wars appear to be completely political in nature with little factual basis to them.

Gary Nash and Charlotte Crabtree (she passed away in 2006) were the lead developers overseeing the creation of the National History Standards in the late 1980s and 1990s. Funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), an organization then led by Lynne Cheney, wife of future vice president Richard Cheney, they and others developed a solid set of standards for use in K-12. By the time the standards were ready for release, Lynne Cheney had left the NEH and entered the political arena as a conservative Republican. As a result, Cheney would attack the standards, Nash, Crabtree, the historians and educator working on the project and anyone or anything involved with it via mass media.

Nash and Crabtree show in this book how the standards were created, why they were created, and who was involved in them. They also show how Lynne Cheney supported the work up until she left for politics. In the process, Nash and Crabtree thoroughly debunk the smear campaign waged by conservative media. In fact, they expose the entire affair as nothing more than a political maneuver by conservatives jockeying for votes by playing on the fears of Americans.
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Format: Paperback
Gary B. Nash, Charlotte Crabtree, and Ross E. Dunn have written a fascinating book that looks at the problems which occur when politics and the teaching history clash, as they inevitably will. The specific event described is the fight over the National History Standards which were established to give states and local school boards voluntary guidelines. The idea blew up when Lynne Cheney wrote an op-ed piece damning the standards. All three authors were involved in the project and bring their personal views and insights to the book in a helpful way.
The most interesting aspect of the book is both the historical and international aspects applied to the history wars. It allows the reader to put this recent battle into a more helpful historical perspective as many examples from the past are presented. The examples from the other countries are also useful in giving a global approach to the issues. This is how it should be for a book that covers the battles over what should be taught to children concerning U.S. and world history. A good book that shows the problems that begin when politicians get involved in the teaching of history.
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Format: Hardcover
The dedication reads simply, "This book is dedicated to the nation's history teachers". Being a member of such an oft-maligned group, this reviewer could not fail to read every word of History on Trial with critical interest. Nash and company give a fascinating overview of the debates that have raged regarding the teaching of America's history and continue to torment our national conscience today. As a history of history alone the book would be worthwhile. The primary controversy explored involves the uproar that arose over publication of the national history standards. These had been developed by the National Center for History in the Schools, established and funded by the NEH, headed by Lynne Cheney from 1986-1992. While some of the writing does seem a defense of the embattled authors being assaulted by right-wing conservatives, both critics and defenders of the NCHS are quoted liberally. In fact, it is noted that there were few defenders in the early days of the attacks. The reader is allowed to make up his/her own mind. The initiative to develop standards came at a time when many were charging that our nation's schools were failing. George Bush had developed the Goals 2000 plan and education committees, governors, state legislatures, and local education boards began to seek solutions. The problems were not with the idea of setting standards, but with a perceived emphasis on social history and historical interpretation skills at the expense of rote memorization of traditional names, dates, and events. The US history standards were the most viciously attacked. Critics did not want teachers to discuss failures or faults with the system. They preferred glorification of national heroes (adult, white males) and national institutions.Read more ›
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