Above: Picture by student Shelby See. My t-shirt was given to me as a gift by student Nico Zulli.
While reflecting on the nature of my calling (it is not a job – yet), I read a book by Donald Kennedy called Academic Duty. In chapter ten of this work, Kennedy makes a nice analogy to the process of doing academic work. Here is the anecdote: “Three baseball umpires are in a bar engaged in a tipsy reminiscence about how good they were. ‘I called ’em as I saw ’em,’ the first one says. The second, after a brief pause, tops it: ‘I called ’em as they were.’ The third umpire reflects for a while, takes another pull on his Scotch, and says firmly, ‘They weren’t nothing ’till I called em.’ What makes this anecdotal tale so great is the fact that it is so true, especially when studying history. Better yet, it is true in everyday life. I hope that my students will understand that the study of history is a complex element that is constantly changing. Some might say that history is the past thus it cannot change; however, I like to ask students the question of whose history are we discussing and who is telling the account? In a similar fashion to what the umpires addressed above, we all see and study events from various different views. Some of us like to write history as we have come to see it. Others have and will write history the way it is, which is difficult to define. And the rest of us will turn seemingly nothing into history.
Those students who have been a part of my classes know that history is a complex process that must constantly be revisited. I like to teach that America was not founded by those who sought to establish their own religious freedom, but by those who wanted the same thing they were fleeing: conformity, power, and wealth. If this type of historiography sounds a bit Marxist, it is not. Of course David Horowitz, the conservative writer, would disagree. History should be taught from multiple POVs. In doing so, students must understand that history is not always a pretty picture. If by studying history one starts to feel uncomfortable – good, he/she probably learned something new.