A Decent History

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March 25, 2011 by David Gillaspie

The Truth, Or The Facts, Just The Facts

Picasso's Spanish Civil War Document

Joe Friday was no historian and Dragnet no documentary, but it was riveting entertainment in its day:

“This wound is from the bullet that killed him.”

“Well, that other one is no vitamin pill.”

Niall Ferguson is a historian, a leading Harvard historian according to his article in the current Newsweek, and he says effective history education ought to be ‘fun’ history.

Fun history.

What he says is not fun is the size of a history book like Pearson Education’s United States History:  6.4 pounds and nearly a foot long.  Is this a history book or a fish?

Either way, Mr. Ferguson thinks something stinks.

To make it fun, he uses Harry Potter to say the most boring subject at Hogwarts is history.  Harvard referencing Hogwarts? 

Let the fun begin.

If that’s not enough, and it never is, Professor Ferguson goes the extra mile by quoting Alan Bennett’s play The History Boys with, “history is just one f–king thing after another.”

A history book, a novel, and a play compares to a history class where the reading list includes a compiled text on the subject along with a monograph and a novel.  You want to touch all the bases before you head home.

Home for Niall Ferguson, which for a man named Niall has to be Great Britain, is counterfactual history, or what if history, as in what if England had stayed out of WWI?

High school history students need current events as a tool to dig into the past, something to scrape with.  Here’s a counterfactual what if:

What if the Taliban ruled the state of Maine?  This is what they did with the big Buddha in Afghanistan. 

What would they do in Maine?  Remove murals depicting the state’s labor history because it sends the wrong message? 

Even though the Taliban doesn’t rule Maine, and Governor Paul LePage does, there is a problem.

There is no reason to question the governor’s decision to remove a mural; there’s no reason to question why former Attorney General John Ashcroft draped a semi-nude statue.

But, what if Governor LePage accepted an invitation to Diego Rivera’s studio?  Would he clear the place of murals he didn’t like?

What if John Ashcroft visited the Three Graces, the goddesses of gracefulness, the charms of beauty, and cheerful amusement.  These ladies are carved from stone and they are buck nekkid. 

What is there to fear?

LePage has no fear a pro-labor thug will stomp a hole in his face and leave only jowls.  Ashcroft has no fear he will have to carry yards of drapery to cover what might offend him.

To make things easier for both, they might take a lesson from the Taliban.  They know how to deal with art problems.

My eyes, my eyes, make it go away, please

By David Gillaspie

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