Friday, October 27, 2006

The Phrase I Never Want to Hear Again

I hope never to hear or read again the phrase: "History will judge." It seems like every time I turn on the t.v. or listen to news on the radio there is someone else spouting off about the judgment of history. Listen people: HISTORY DOES NOT JUDGE - HISTORIANS DO!

Why do I care?

I care because by suggesting that history is the judge, rather than historians, you are undermining the place of the historian in society. I have 65 undergraduate history majors running around campus thinking that they aren't as important to society as the majors in business or chemistry or what have you because those other majors that "do" something - they might one day be influential and change the direction of society.

Well, historians do something too. We can put the actions of past political leaders in context, we can tease out the short- and long-term consequences of those actions, and we can JUDGE the significance and rightness of those actions. Moreover, the view of historians on events like the Vietnam War or Social Security or the Civil Rights Movement can impact policy makers. So how about we start giving historians some credit for what they do.

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