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tv   History As It Happens Podcast  CSPAN  April 15, 2022 6:27pm-7:24pm EDT

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elevation to the presidency. >> watch this program and thousands more online, we welcome you to the washing
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times with a special episode of history as it happens podcast. it's for people who want to think about current events historically and it's available wherever you get your podcasts or at history as it happens. com. i'm martin di caro in today we're joined by james grossman, american historical association we welcome you sir. >> good afternoon thank you for inviting me. >> we're excited to have you here of an importance gushing about the concepts -- the past, how it's studied, whose version of events gains ascendancy. it's always been a battlefield in our country. that's because origins matter as much now as ever before in america. james the ha is trying to influence this debate now roiling the nation over what should be taught in history and social studies classes. first, what are divisive concepts and where this controversy come from. >> well divisive concepts seem to be things that some people are a objecting to that
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teachers are teaching in the classrooms as part of american history. it seems to be that teaching the history of division is problematic for some people and that's where this term divisive concepts are. that if you teach students that america was deeply divided over slavery, over jim crow, over various things. over the course of our history. then what some people arguing is, these are divisible concepts. that divide our country. rather than these being the history of our country that we have to understand if we're going to deal with it. >> in other words, students have to learn about these concepts. in your view. >> students need to learn the history of divisions of conflict of differences of
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perspective differences of experience in american history. this is not divisive concepts. these are facts. and the facts are that these kinds of divisions have been part of our history and if we don't understand them, we can't deal with them. >> reading about the 17 90s, that was not a period of unity politically in our country. so we've all seen scenes from school board meetings across the country and news broadcasts, where parents objecting to the teaching of what they call critical race theory or anti racism curriculum. even here in washington suburbs, loudoun county, making national news, some school board members feel threatened and intimidated. where did this controversy come from? >> well it seems to have come from a small group of people who in essence sat down and said, how do we distract americans from what the real
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issues are in american politics and get them to argue about cultural issues, about issues that quite frankly aren't really issues. if you look at the legislation that's been introduced in 27 states, that relates to this, most of that legislation prohibits things that aren't happening. and so a lot of this is people screaming and yelling about things that actually either aren't happening or are happening only here and there in very few places. nobody's being indoctrinated. children aren't being indoctrinated. and quite frankly, people who are so sure that their teenagers are being indoctrinated don't realize that it's very hard to indoctrinate a teenager. >> i have a copy of one bill here, before i read some of the
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language, you mentioned to me when we are preparing for a conversation today on history as it happens, it's nice to see you in person by the way. instead of over zoom. you mentioned to me that the legislation is basically the same in every place, it's written by conservative think tanks, the heritage foundation -- >> it comes out of think tanks, it comes from one particular journalist who has published basically guidelines on how to write this legislation. it comes from conservative activists, who has actually very proudly announced that he has branded critical race theory, he has basically created something that was barely a present in american education, certainly outside of higher education. and he's proud of the fact that he has branded it and made people think it's what he says it is. which is quite frankly brilliant marketing and very bad history. >> so here's a bill in the
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state of ohio, i believe this is now law. here's the language, no public institution of higher education school district or public school, including public charter school, shall direct or otherwise compel students to personally affirm adopt or adhere to any of the following tenants. here's one of the tenants. >> let's stop there, before we get to the tenants. because let's do this piece by piece. you've been a student. i've been a teacher, i don't know if you are taught. >> no, i don't know if i was very good student. >> well i'm guessing as a student you weren't compelled to do anything. >> i did go to catholic school. >> even a catholic school which was a little stretcher than a public schools, there wasn't a lot of compelling -- you are compelled to take gym class. you are compelled to sit in your seat. >> but not in history class. >> well history class one never knows. but, i this notion that
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the schools are compelling students to believe x y or z, i would love to see some examples of this compelling going on. in history classes, there is not a lot of compelling. >> here's one of the tenants that are now off limits, for instance, teachers are not allowed to teach their students that any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior. i mean that sounds harmless enough in print. that individuals by virtue of sex -- >> let's stop there, because i want to go this piece by piece. read that again. >> sure no public institution of higher education school drastic public school shelter wrecked or otherwise compel students to believe any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin is inherently -- >> superior, let's stop there. there is a phenomenon in
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marketing world called push pull. where by asking people particular questions, you subtly imply facts. it's almost like the, wind you stop beating your wife kind of push pull. and that's what's going on here. the claws, when you see this in the legislation, then that implies that there are teachers out there, history teachers out there, who are teaching students that one races superior to another. that actually, that has happen american history, that took place in history classrooms for over a century. where students were taught that white people were superior to everybody else. and quite frankly, none of these people objected during those hundred years. there are not history teachers out there teaching that one races superior to another. they might be teaching that, that there have been historical patterns where white americans have had
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advantages. that's fact. we are white americans have used the civil, and civic power that they have to oppress other people. that's a fact. nobody is saying, i don't think, history teachers as far as i know aren't saying to students, either white people are superior to black people, black people severe to white people, that's not what's going on in history classes. and that quite frankly is now all these people are objecting to. but by articulating that in the law that way, they're implying to people that this must be happening because that's why you have to make it illegal. >> and in the way this manifests itself in a classroom, i assume, you can correct me if i'm wrong, is that teachers might second guess their decision to teach about jim crow, teach about how the nazis
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looked at jim crow as a model, how the nazis saw american indian reservations as something that they wanted to do in the east of europe. >> they might. i think that probably that, yes, that kind of chilling effect which is what you're describing. probably comes from somewhere else in the legislation. we can keep religiously. shun i think that comes from someplace else in the legislation. this part of legislation, is just nonsense, quite frankly. there are other places in the legislation where you get more into this issue of divisive concepts. where they're teaching about divisions, where teachers might say, i better be careful here. >> and we'll go over one more ten and move on to what's the ha, american historical association is doing about this. individuals by virtue of sex race ethnicity religion color or national origin are inherently responsible for actions coming in the past by other members of the same sex,
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race, ethnicity, -- cities are not allowed to teach that idea. >> so this is where we get more fuzzy and a little more interesting in some ways. it is impossible to deny that especially in certain parts of the country, but more or less in different degrees everywhere, in much of the united states, certainly more in some parts of the country than others. that white americans did things that oppressed african americans, that's a fact. we have documentation of lynching, we have documentation of legally mandated segregation, it wasn't black people who passed laws that forced black children to go to schools in southern states that were funded at less than one tenth of the rate for students than white people,. so these are historical facts.
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this kind of discrimination, that was in essence racially structured. now a teacher has to teach that in order to teach american history. that doesn't mean that the teacher is looking at the white kids in the class and saying, this is your fault. or, this is your parents fault. now a white kid in a class whose great grandfather was in the state legislature in alabama, in early 20th century, and voted for the appropriations of the schools. you can't deny that this kid's great grandfather was responsible, partly responsible for this. but you're not saying that the kid your responsible. so again this is a bit of a red herring here. it is saying that overtime, white americans, have been
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responsible for this kind of discrimination, for this kind of violence. it's not saying that every white kid in the class has a great grandfather who was responsible for this because my great-grandfather was in europe in, until the late 18 90s. >> and i always assume that, although again i have been in the classroom for quite awhile, that students in the united states have been taught about slavery, jim crow, etc. and we're going to get into what's students are actually learning and how well americans are educated on the subjects and a little bit i have some polls here. but first, the aha is taking some action about this, here's a joint statement that your organization, you personally signed with other educational agents on legislative efforts to restrict education about racism in american history. stating firm opposition to a bag of legislation proposals in at least 20 states. you've also form something called the learn
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from history coalition. >> we haven't formed it, we joined it. i don't want to take credit for the work that somebody else has done. >> thank you for correcting me. learn from history coalition seeks to combat deliberate misinformation about the current state of history education. so you join the coalition, why don't you briefly tell us what these efforts are about? >> well, i can start quickly with the coalition. the coalition is, last count had at least 25 members, most of which are educational oriented. just a few of us are there as historians. i think a lot of the expertise and the coalition is related to what happens in american classrooms. and includes the national association of school boards, includes the superintendents organization, and we are part of it, i think as the national council for social studies, the
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organization for american historians. and the american association for state and local history. the four of us are there to help them with the historical part of this, the content. but what we're trying to do is to help teachers think about how you can teach what you already described in a way that is professional and honest. so as you were saying, we've always taught about slavery. we've always taught about jim crow. this legislation, when you read it carefully, says that teachers in some of the states, teachers must teach that slavery, jim crow, lynching were deviations from the broader arc of american freedom. but in the
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deviations, especially from the visions and the values declaration of independence, the constitution, etc. no, it is very possible for it could be too good teacher -- and i hope many teachers do this to -- have the students we declaration, read the constitution, and talk about what slavery, was slavery a deviation from these principles? because some students would say, no, actually, slavery is built into these. other students would say, no, some historians for his face, some historians say no. these are things we argue about. these are [inaudible] the problem is arguing, yeah, arguing about what they mean. what they, said what the intentions were of the people who wrote them. the problem is that phrase, anything but, anything other
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than. in other words, what people writing this legislation don't want teachers to do is to say that slavery, continuities of racism, segregation, various other, various other things that have happened in our history, they don't want, they don't want kids to believe that these things are completely consistent with our founding documents, that in fact it's not that -- and this is not saying the founders were evil people -- the founders were slave holders, that's a fact. that's a historical fact. and to say that there they created founding documents that were influenced by the values that they had, by the economy they lived in, by the social structure they lived in, it
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makes all the sense in the world. so, where the problem lies is the notion that teachers should not be able to have students talk seriously about what the role is of racism as it relates to founding documents, continuities in american history. that's what we object to, is teachers being told, you can't talk about that, because those are divisive concepts. teachers been told you can't talk about that because thos >> interesting. race just one issue. for instance, the treatment of labor unions throughout history. i've done a bunch of podcasts lately about the military industrial complex and at this point we don't question this prosaic military presence across the globe. concepts that might make students -- not feel uncomfortable -- but maybe question that and ideas that created them at first. it >> might make them uncomfortable, yes --
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>> but i talk about columbus, most of what we learned in my history class was garbage. and i learned that -- committed some cruelties. he was locked up, put in chains, brought back to europe and he was such a terrible administrator. you learn these things as an adult or teenager, not as a child. and it made you are your world view. and i guess that's what some of the opponents are saying, that they don't want their children to learn that american history is not all glories. >> that's what learning is about. yes. these things do make you feel uncomfortable. if i am a 15 year old student and i'm from a military family of three, four generations. and i am exposed to a conversation in class about the dangers of the military industrial complex, i am probably going to be uncomfortable. and i might even
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say, this is un-american, this is terrible, you know? and then the teacher is going to say to me, excuse me, this is from a speech by dwight eisenhower. it's part of our history. general eisenhower warned us about this when he was president eisenhower. there isn't much about history that is not going to make somebody uncomfortable. >> that's the point, right? >> and that's how we teach students to step back, ask some questions -- yes. columbus, i learned, in 1492, columbus sailed the ocean blue, which certainly helped me learn some names and dates. this is, overtime, historians asking questions, because the world around us changes. and there were things we didn't think
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were important 50 years ago. now we do. but we also see new documents that we didn't know about 50 years ago. >> i mention columbus has just one recent subject that i've taken up on my podcast. but the statues that have been in the news, when you are on podcast a few weeks ago for an episode titled charlottesville says goodbye to the confederacy, we talked about confederate statues and their origins. and the assumptions people today might have had about why those statues were put up versus the real reasons. we will get into that in a moment. one more point about the battle over school curricula. a recent headline, just to show how crazy this issue can get, out of texas, we are a school official, her name was gina petty, executive director of curriculum instruction in the
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dallas-fort worth students, 840 students telling a teacher, apparently, that if you are going to have a book about the holocaust, make sure you have a book that has an opposing view, because if you only teach one side, the new law in texas might come down on you. so i suppose that translates to, if you are going to teach about the history of lynchings, you have to teach the other side of that? this is crazy. >> first of all, she has apologized. >> she has apologized. >> but the apology -- it's not irrelevant but it's still a problem. and that is that we have to ask, what is it that induced her, stimulated her to say this to the teacher? and it was the legislation that we are objecting to. because of that legislation, she scratched her head and said, i need to tell this teacher that there needs to be an opposing viewpoint because that's what the legislation says. >> just a point of fact, gina
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petty was the official who was caught on tape -- the superintendent was lane leadbetter -- [inaudible] >> the superintendent issued an apology on behalf of the school district. the important thing here, though -- and this goes back to some wording we had earlier -- is this notion of opposing viewpoints. that when we teach history, if we are teaching it well, just like if we are studying it well, we teach what i would call different angles of vision. there may be different angles of vision on the holocaust. because you want to be thinking about, how did it happen? what was the response of the german people? where the german people in support of what was going on? the non-jewish german people. there are lots of questions you can ask about the holocaust that provide different angles of vision. and that's what students should be learning.
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but this notion of opposing viewpoints, with that assumes is that what teachers are doing is saying to students, this was good and this was bad. and we are going to have an opposing viewpoint. nazis were terrible or nazis weren't so terrible. that's not how we think about it -- >> exactly -- >> history here. and so that is the problem -- >> simple dichotomies -- >> simple dichotomies, but yes, these laws are going to stimulate these kinds of actions because what it's saying to administrators is that if you want to do your job right, you need to force teachers to do this or else the parents will be coming after you and the school board will be coming after you. and so you have a chilling effect on the teachers. you have administrators who aren't quite sure what their role is, as in this case, and you have parents and school boards looking over
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the shoulders of professional teachers, who are trying to teach students history in the way that they have learned how to teach history as professionals. >> so let's talk about the larger context in which this controversy is occurring. our nations been having a reckoning with its history of racial injustices. black lives matter movement. the murder of george floyd and other black people killed by police. and into this maelstrom in 2019 came the new york times 60 19 1619 project. and we've talked about this so-called 1776 project, which in my view, is also poor history. but on the left -- if we could use a simple dichotomy -- the 1619 project came in, and by the same token, that, in my view, it should not be
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taught in schools either because it's festooned with serious errors about the american revolution. and this speaks to my initial point, when i opened up about our conversation, the past being a battlefields. we have these polar extremes, these competing narratives, and either one holds together, really, all correct. i know that -- has had things to say about the 1619 project. >> i think the first problem is the notion of competing narratives. that's a simplistic way of thinking about what historians do and what historians teach and how we argue about it. there are different -- and i'm going to go back to angles a vision. there are different ways of seeing the 18th century, the 17th century, the american revolution, the role that the
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founders played in perpetuating slavery. and the problem is that we have people who are saying, it's either this or it's this. as opposed to saying, okay, first, is the evidence -- what is the evidence that's used in either this set of materials or that set of materials? where the evidence isn't very good, you have to say, the evidence isn't very good. and you can use it as a learning experience. you go to the students and say, okay, let's read this. and you say to the students, tell me what evidence this historian or, in this case, group of journalists, has mobilized to demonstrate their argument? what is the actual evidence? i'm old fashioned, i use a blackboard -- >> [laughs] >> you go to the blackboard and you say, this is the evidence
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they've marshalled. now [inaudible] >> you are talking about 1619? >> you can do that with the 1619 project, you can do that with others. but one issue is that the 1619 project, however debatable it is, the debate that historians have, especially over this debate of what a founding is -- there were professionals involved. not as many as i might have liked, but there were professional historians involved. this counter argument, 1776 report, there was not a single, professional historian, of the united states ön that commission. there is one historian, studying ancient military history. basically, they did this bereft of expertise, whatsoever. these are not equivalent. the
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materials in the 1619 project, in some ways, is the same way other materials are out there, to be used by teachers. so, what happens, is you put these things out there, they get reviewed, they get discussed, people say, this doesn't work, because a lot of existing textbooks, aren't all that great. >> look, if you took economics in college, you probably had a textbook written by a guy named samuel seng, which, is by now, in its 50th addition. economists change their minds more than historians do, maybe, i'm not sure, but yes. scholarship, and knowledge, evolved. and, it involves but people throwing out controversy. >> according to this new service release, the 1619 project, is being considered as part of the curriculum, in 4500 schools, nationwide. you
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mentioned some of the professional historians, on the left, by the way, who criticize the 1619 project. first of all, i have read it, i think some people who haven't read it, have not read it. i think the problems are the main, essay written by nicole, hannah jones. here is sean, the great historian at princeton, writing, in a recent essay, about the issues with the 16 19 project, beyond just the factual mistakes, about the american revolution being fought to preserve slavery. that was the main factual problem of 16 19. they go on to say, instead of trying to instruct the public about the significance of the year 16 19, and hence, the foundational importance of slavery, and racism, to american history, the project promoted a narrow, highly ideological view of the american past, according to, which white supremacy has been the nation's core principle, and chief mission, ever since its founding. so, i understand your point about competing
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narratives, it is not the right way to look at this. but, on the one side, we do have folks saying, our fending was a fraud. our principles were betrayed from day one. and, on the other side saying, our glorious past, valley forge, and d day, and george washington, never chopped down a cherry tree. >> again, shawn is a good historian. >> i love shawn, and he knows that. >> i disagree with him, he disagrees with him, we all disagree, we can all sit here and talk about his first book, and discuss its treatment of race, class, it's a good book, chance democratic. but, quite frankly, as someone whose focus has been african american history, there are disagreements i would have with it, and he and i would sit across the table, in a very civil fashion, and have this argument. it is the same way
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with materials in the 16 19 project. i can disagree with some of them, i can agree with some, i think that there is, absolutely, no reason why students cannot get into an interesting discussion about what founding means. what do we mean when we say founding? does founding mean the moment that a nation is created? that makes sense to me. but, then, there is another notion of, does founding mean, the creation of the foundation? upon which the nation grows? using the word foundation. there are very different ways of seeing it, and students aren't stupid. they can understand the importance of arguing about this. that, in 16 19, we can locate, in ways, the beginnings of the institution of slavery in the united states. we can
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argue, slavery was the foundation of the economy, in the early years of the united states. >> a large part of the country, absolutely. >> and that slavery was also by, by the early 18th century, in essence, baked in to the culture and cultural relations of much of the country. and that gets you into argument about founding. there's a, here's a good example. historians actually were arguing for a while over the difference between a society with slaves and a slave society. the 16 is arguing that we were a slave society from the beginning, which i think is hard to argue with. people who are writing these laws that are saying this is a deviation from
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the founding principles, from the general arc of american history, are saying no, we were a society with slaves. and we can excise that and then go on and things are fine. that's very different from saying we are a slave society if you think about a medical analogy of what you can excise from your body. >> so sean, is just one of many fine historians who objected to the premise of the 16 19 project, not because they deny the importance of slavery in american history, there were 4 million slave people in the united states by 1816 in the civil war was fought over. but when i think the point is, just as the 1776 project lacks nuance, 16 19 shoe where the american revolution into a narrative that from day one, american history has been unbroken line of white supremacy to today. where and also another point, following along the narrative was,
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abraham lincoln was a racist who -- >> and again. >> thomas jefferson statue today was actually taken down in--. >> you said has been an unbroken line. i think it would be hard to argue as included, and unbroken line. those are two different things, it's a subtle difference. there is more to our history than race. but you cannot understand our history without understanding that unbroken line. one of the major critics of the 16 19 project, going back to not just shawn. is james oakes, university -- of >> another great historian. >> you know it is first book is? title of his first book? >> i don't. >> his first book was called the ruling race. okay? so it's not as if he doesn't think that this has not been some kind of continuous thread in american history. and this difference
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between saying that white supremacy has been the essence of american history as opposed to white supremacy has been omnipresent, has been continuous and has continued to influence our institutions and our culture. these are two different kinds of things. the lincoln was a racist, and again, this goes back to what historians do is we argue with each other. >> in a civil manner. >> in a civil manner. the most important book in some ways, or most highly visible book that argues that lincoln was a racist was a biography of lincoln called abraham lincoln, racist. i don't agree with it. the author was my friend, -- lauren and i were good friends in chicago. we got along very well, we argued with each other rather vigorously. but we were
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friends. and we respected each other as scholars. and this is my point is that these are different ways of seeing history and teachers and students benefit from these conversations. >> in our culture wars, people can cherry pick fact without nuance and when you say abraham lincoln was a racist, his statues need to come down, you overlook the fact that before he died he came around to supporting black suffrage and black civil rights and had he not been assassinated -- >> and it's important to know, this goes back to things are not simple, they're complicated. and that is important to stand for principles with different political -- the american historical association issued a very strong criticism of the san francisco school board when it was about to change the name
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of 44 schools, including abraham lincoln high school. and we said no, you don't have process where you consulted historians, this was not a serious inquiry into the histories of the people who the schools were named after. no, you shouldn't do this. >> and i mentioned before, in one of my maze like sentences that new york city today, thomas jefferson statue is coming down from the city council chambers. >> so let's move on to the issue. >> before we -- before we start worrying about thomas jefferson. i emigrated mirror of a lot of jefferson's ideas and so are many americans on all places in the spectrum. they're taking a statue of jefferson down, we can argue about whether or not you should be taking down or not. there's a lot of statues of thomas jefferson. we are not erasing thomas jefferson from our history. >> well there was an issue, who
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gets to decide who's honored and where. that's our next topic because when you appeared on history as it happens podcast, fairly recently, it was actually in july around the fourth anniversary of the unite the right rally. the confederate statues did come down, actually was an august i take that back. the confederate statues came down in charlottesville, general lee and jackson. in our discussion, really about why certain narratives gays ascendancy and why we today believe certain narratives or believe a certain version of history instead of say, a different or more complete or revised version. and i think the issue of the confederate statues is arguably the best one. because, as a yankee myself, move down to washington, i'm a mets fan but i am from the north. i'm a yankee, i guess. move down to washington d. c. about a decade ago and i notice right over the river in alexandria, there were
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still streets and roads named after confederacy and i thought about why that would be the case. and in charlottesville, statues were not put up right after the civil war to honor battlefield heroes, they were erected 1924 as symbols of white power, the clue clicks clan held a parade to celebrate the statues and we got around to discussing the dunning school. follow my premise in the let you take it away to explain the dumbing school. i alluded to it before, as children, as young adults, were greeted by certain set of values, narratives, called the lining of the crib. and then were introduced to new ideas, might be quite jarring to the sentence. the dunning school interpretation of the confederacy reconstruction, doesn't come from some crazy guy left field, it was a
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prestigious ivy league university and that narrative dominated, that version of history dominated scholarship for about a century. so what was the dunning school, -- >> that's fine. why is that important for these discussions. >> dunning was a historian at an ivy league university, get a lot of ph. d. sun's, he had a lot of influence on the ways in which historians wrote about reconstruction. and the art basically, the argument in a nutshell was that reconstruction was a failure, it was corrupt, and that the heroes of the period were really woven called the redeemers, white southerners who basically drove black and white republicans out of the state houses. and quote, redeemed the governments of their states from this corruption. it just wasn't true. it was a way historians
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saw things for a century. and by the 1960s, historians were again asking different questions and in some cases looking at evidence that had not been looked at before. the dunning school was the equivalent, in some ways, or the follow up to what was, what one might call the philips school of slavery. phillips, taught at a school at the north, ivy league school, argued that slavery was a school, that was the metaphor that he used. and that children were let out too early. in other words, emancipation was premature, that enslaved african americans were not ready for freedom. dunning then follows that up with an argument that these people who were not ready for
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freedom were easily manipulated by white northerners, yankees, and other african americans who instituted these terribly corrupt governments. that did great harm, but again, it was seen freed people as an essence childlike. >> paternalistic view -- of >> worse than paternalistic in many ways. and this was embodied very powerfully in a film called birth of a nation. in 1950. which had tremendous influence. one of the things that's important to know, which again, we aren't really teaching until say 30 years ago, is that african americans across the north especially fought against the showing of birth of a nation. chicago actually had bandit. >> some people objected to the statues going out in the 1920s.
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>> an african americans objected to the statues. the importance of the statues is that a statue basically says to our children and to visitors, these are the values that we honor. and what i've argued in the case of the statuary in the senate, in the capital, is the values that we honor, the people that we honor change. our population changes, our ideas change, our values change, it's just history, that's what happens. everything changes so why not say every generation, every 25 years, let's step back and look at the statues and say, is that still who we want to honor? >> and i think the important point here, another important point here is just as some people today might object to the teaching of slavery or just how much you might be emphasized in a high school classroom, 100 years ago,
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couldn't probably walk into a single high school classroom in the united states and learned that the cause of secession was slavery and at the civil war spot over slavery. i eat the dunning school. james mcpherson, the great historian, has written that about how the confederates or the neo-confederates, neo-confederates imam -- mcpherson has written about how the lost cause mythologizer's, survivors of the confederacy, understood how important the education system was, they always made sure children were present at these monument unveiling. he wrote, they did that so the rising generation would no personal memories of the war would understand the heroism of their fallen fathers. the united daughters of the confederacy had children auxiliaries and the daughters and other confederate veteran groups had historical committees. in the 1890s. and they published textbooks that
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were basically the textbooks used in schools in the south and elsewhere for as we said about a century until the 1950s, 1960s. >> well later than that. it's in the 50s and 60s that his joint, professional historians, start to say that this is the tweet. tweet. >> that's when the whole scholarship against [inaudible]. >> as where the textbook puts take a bit of time, right. >> so, to the next subject, the cause of this is, or the result of this is -- here's a washington post poll of 2019, recent. 52% of americans know slavery was the main cause of the civil war but 41% blame another reason to our earlier point about whether what are kids actually being taught, 16 19 aside? >> again, let me emphasize here? this in some ways, this is complicated, in some ways it's not. the 40 was -- it 41%? >> yeah for 41% [inaudible]. >> another reason. digging into that poll, my guess is that
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what you are going to find is the other reason is states rights. >> yeah. >> so, if i'm a teacher, i'm going to say this is, okay, what do we do with this? these data? we have 52% saying slavery, we have 41% saying something else, and x percent of those are saying it's states rights. i'm going to ask the students, well, states rights to do what? >> yeah. >> is states rights really a principle by which people take up guns and die and kill other people. >> [inaudible] [laughs] they fight over tariffs. >> states rights for what? >> and that was a means to an end because -- >> yes -- >> when it came to the fugitive slave act, northern state, people in northern states refusing to hand back black people so that they could be enslaved again, slaveholders didn't respect their state right. another poll here about the holocaust, along the same lines, a reason why i
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introduced the polls about slavery show that again knowledge is superficial. most adults know what the holocaust was -- this was you pew research -- know what the holocaust was and knew when it happened. but fewer than half can correctly answer multiple choice questions about the number of jews murdered or the way adolf came to power. so these are just multiple choice questions, but i think the point is, based on these polls, based on what we're discussing, we need to do a better job of educating everyone about history, not just students. >> and it's hard. >> history. >> and in this climate it's difficult -- >> it is -- >> and let's stick with holocaust, american history. most americans are not aware of what is basically communicated very straightforwardly in the current exhibit at the u.s. holocaust museum, which is that most americans in the 1930s
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thought that americans knew what the nazis were doing. that's well documented in this exhibition. most americans thought it was horrible and that jews were suffering and that what was going on was unconscionable. and they also were opposed, the polls showed. they were opposed to letting jews into this country. so that's a stain on american history, isn't it? >> absolutely. >> that's an uncomfortable aspect of our history. and this is -- this is not a question of one side or the other. these polls are the facts. the materials that are on exhibit at the holocaust museum are presented in a very straightforward way. these things should make us uncomfortable. and that's part
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of what is going on. and you are a mets fan? >> i did admit that in public -- >> okay. so the founding manager's of the mets, one of my heroes -- casey stengel--. turns out casey's stengel was a virulent racist and i have to step back and this is uncomfortable for me and he was
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a childhood hero. stengel and then when i read about most of my heroes, baseball players in the run 1950's, not very admirable -- >> not as bad as ty cobb -- >> -- what do you do with that, they are deviations, aberrations? well, no. in the case of cobb, cobb worked hard to keep black people out of major league baseball. and you can't say, well, this is just something in our past and we fixed it. because that was deeply embedded in major league baseball. people suffered. people lost opportunities. you can't just dismiss it as an aberration -- it's uncomfortable. these are my heroes. >> you use the word, civil historians, debating things, most of the time in civil manners. but there is a lack of civility in this controversy now roiling our country. again, as i mentioned before, we have all seen news clips of parents at school board meetings who -- i don't want to overgeneralize
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here and say they are all, you know, pitchforks and whatever that they are saying. but there is a lot of anger out there. and some people are being threatened. it's a sensitive subject, i certainly don't want anyone to believe that i'm painting all parents with a broad brush or that all of their concerns aren't worth considering. but there has been a lack of civility about this. so we will close on this point. from the atlantic, a great excerpt essay by george packer. of course, we can't agree on what should be in civics education but there is an agreement -- pointing to those polls -- that civics education is failing young people, to the extent that they get any at all. what is your take on that? >> i think our testing data shows that mathematics education is failing people. i think we know that from some of our conversations, that there may be something about our science education that is failing americans. >> yes -- [laughs] >> we have a different kind of crisis here. what is failing -- and it's true, lack of civic knowledge is a problem. there's no question about that -- >> and the attack on expertise.
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>> it's an attack on expertise, that's right. and that's very different from civic education, that's not democracy, actually. we also have our attacks on democracy right now that are a problem. but the attack on expertise is a problem in terms of what we think about, whether it is science or it is history, and there is an attack on inquiry. and that's where the civics problem comes in. do you look at our founding documents as bibles? or do you look at our founding documents in a historical context and say, these were created by people. who were these people? what values did they have? that's not the same as these people are awful people. it saying, who were they? and what values did they have? >> and it's complicated. >> it's complicated! and how did that affect the documents that they were?
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>> it makes it more interesting when it's complicated. >> and kids are more interested then. teenagers don't want pablum fed to them. and quite frankly, we know that it doesn't work. the historical precedent for what you've been describing here is mccarthy-ism in the 1950's. we've seen this before. in fact, recently, one of the publications -- or, a few of the places where people are going, if favor of this legislation -- they say, if your kids teacher is using any of the following ten or 20 phrases then they are teaching crtc crt. that's almost word for word. if your kids teachers are using the following words, they must be a communist. i am 69 years old. that means i am roughly the same age as a lot of the people who are in school,
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some are older than me. there is not a lot of communists out there. if the teachers were indoctrinating the students, they failed to do so. >> my leftist history and political science professors at college used to joke around with me. if we are trying to undermine and subvert american society, we are doing a pretty bad job. well, james grossman of the american historical association, we thank you for this conversation, it got us thinking today. >> i hope so too, because that's what historians do, we try to get people thinking. >> and we will get people thinking by listening to history as it happens podcast. you are on an episode recently. people can look that up. charlottesville says goodbye to the confederacy. from the washington times, i want to thank everyone who has been watching this conversation. i'm martin di caro and have a great day.
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