Lessons in History by Dr. Schweickart

Tonight’s Board of Education meeting at Springboro High was headlined by a well-published local author, Dr. Schweickart, who teaches history at the University of Dayton. As a self-described Conservative historian, his primary goal was to illustrate the anti-American bias within American history textbooks, and showed a number of examples on the overhead projector to illustrate his point, beginning with the White man’s efforts to repopulate the buffalo, and ending with a rather lengthy defense of the economic impacts of the Reagan years.

While I was initially excited to hear another point of view in the education debate, I arrived somewhat frustrated when I discovered that I left my video phone at home. When I made my way into the room, it was obvious that everyone else was equally as frustrated for different reasons. One local resident questioned the Board’s decision to invite non-residents to deliver a politically biased perspective at a public education meeting, to which Dr. Kohl’s defended their decision with her desire to ensure that students have access to a complete education and not simply learn one side of history.

After the presentation, Mr. Rigano took the opportunity to ask a few questions in order to continue the search for truth in our history books. Dr. Schweickart took to the podium in order to answer, and seemed to jump off the rails when he opened the floor for additional questions. A few people jumped at the chance, including a local resident and colleague of Dr. Schweickart who asked about the relevance of gender and ethnic perspectives from his particular point of view. He responded by simply saying that as a Conservative historian, he didn’t recognize the value of these interpretations.

The race and gender comment seemed to escalate the tension in the room and moved Dr. Kohls to get the meeting back on track by ending the Q&A session. After thanking the Board for his time, Dr. Schweickart picked up his laptop and left the room, along with nearly a quarter of the attendees. At first I wanted to ask him a few follow-up questions, but the crowd around him seemed to be more interested in supporting his bravery than discussing the historical context in which we revisit events from the past.

After the phone incident and the inability to ask a question, I came home frustrated and half-expected to write a scathing review of the political bias in public education. We all know that history is written by the winners, but how could I criticize someone for including facts that were left on the cutting room floor, given that yesterday I called out the Internet icon Nicola Tesla for being a Eugenicist? For all my frustration I could not escape the fact that history is what we make of it, and that any criticism I might write of another man’s limited perspective equally applies to my own.

Before long that hypocritical feeling started creeping in and my frustration was replaced with a question about what it is that we’re trying to teach our children? One fact that went unnoticed is the amount of information that our children have access to in today’s teaching environment. What’s important is for them to know how to gain access to this information and learn how to use it. Whether or not this information is biased is a given. The challenge is finding the right information to solve a particular problem, which in Dr. Schweickart’s case appears to be Liberals.

Do you think history should focus less on “his story” and more on critical thinking? Let me know in the comments below!

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