How History Is Actually Erased

So much for the idea that Americans don’t care about their past. One of the hashtags trending today on Twitter complained about the dangers of #ErasingHistory:

Indeed. If you take down statues of Americans who betrayed their country in order to defend slavery, you’re stepping onto a slippery slope.

Look, there’s a serious conversation to be had about Confederate memorials, with a legitimate case to be argued in favor of keeping such works as part of a changed commemorative context.

But if you’re one of those people who’s up in arms about the dangers of #ErasingHistory, then let me suggest a few ways you might better expend your time and passion in service of the past than by taking up a Lost Cause:

• Encourage your ancient Rome- or WWII-loving teenager to consider majoring in history. “But everyone knows that’s a useless major,” they’ll reply. “No, it’s not,” you’ll calmly respond. And hand them empirical data. (Because that’s how teenagers make decisions.)

• Complain to your alma mater the next time they fail to replace a retiring history professor, or when you find out that most of their history teaching load is born by overworked, underpaid adjuncts.

• Ask your local principal or school district superintendent to explain the budgetary and curricular implications for social studies of that shiny new STEM program they (like all their competitors) keep promoting.

• Call your representative or senator to protest the next federal budget proposal that threatens to defund the public endowment that makes possible dozens of valuable projects in historical research and interpretation.

• Or if you prefer free market solutions… Buy a membership in your local attendance-challenged historical museum or site, and purchase history books by actual historians: like this David, this David, this David, or this David instead of this David.