Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Quote of the Day: Politicizing History

NERD FIGHT! It's journalism professor versus historian as David Greenberg excoriates Howard Zinn.  Here's a piece of it (my emphasis in bold):
... historians are obliged to explore the viewpoints of elite actors, however unattractive, not to parcel out sympathy in proper proportions, but to show, in a faithful account of the past, the interconnectedness of the rulers and ruled, and of all strata of society, and how one group’s experiences influence another’s.  But Zinn reduced historical analysis to political opinion.  He assessed a work of history by its author’s partisan loyalties, not its arguments about causation, influence, motivation, significance, experience, or other problems he deemed “technical” in nature. 
... the fatal flaw of Zinn’s historical work is the shallowness, indeed the fallaciousness, of his critique of scholarly detachment.  Zinn rests satisfied with what strikes him as the scandalous revelation that claims of objectivity often mask ideological predilections.  Imagine!  And on the basis of this sophomoric insight, he renounces the ideals of objectivity and empirical responsibility, and makes the dubious leap to the notion that a historian need only lay his ideological cards on the table and tell whatever history he chooses.
I don't need to tell you how dangerously enstupidizing this is.  The "nerds behaving badly" tag belongs to Zinn, of course, whose book has warped countless impressionable readers and still makes life harder for honest, responsible teachers of history.

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