On September 17, President Donald Trump held the first “White House Conference on American History” at the National Archives. At the conference Trump decried “left-wing indoctrination in our schools,” citing the 1619 Project, critical race theory, and the work of Howard Zinn as examples. The American Historical Association recently released a statement responding to the conference.
In the statement, the AHA describes Trump’s comments as an attempt to stoke a culture war intended to distract Americans from more pressing issues. The statement goes on to address how historical interpretation changes over time and the process historians use to construct narratives of the past. It also addresses issues of pedagogy. Teachers “encourage our students to question conventional wisdom as well as their own assumptions, but always with an emphasis on evidence.”
Twenty-nine organizations signed on to the statement including the Committee on LGBT History, the Southern Historical Association, and the American Anthropological Association. The AHA and the co-signers denounce the use of history to further political divides. “Healing those divisions requires an understanding of history and an appreciation for the persistent struggles of Americans to hold the nation accountable for falling short of its lofty ideals. To learn from our history we must confront it, understand it in all its messy complexity, and take responsibility as much for our failures as our accomplishments.”
You can read the full statement here.