Johann N. Neem: Why We Should Teach National History in a Global Age
Americans face a unique challenge today in defining their identities. Globalizing markets have connected us with faraway peoples and places, allowing us to buy cheap goods manufactured in nations with limited labor and environmental protections. Globalization has also spurred heavy migration and a demand for freer international trade. Our identities may follow markets, reducing the centrality of the nation-state in our lives.
Is it a good thing for our identities to be globalized? I would argue no. Progressive politics, including the redistribution of wealth between the well-off and the less so, is predicated on a coherent and vibrant nationalism. Paradoxically, in an age of globalization, our schools must make Americans more aware of their connections to the world while reinvigorating the teaching of our national history.
History's power is its ability to shape our collective identity. By teaching national history, we help create nationals. All identities are premised on shared stories. To be a member of a community is to identify with its past, and to seek to sustain that community in the present is to improve it in the future. That is as true for nations as for religious, ethnic, and professional communities. As the political scientist Rogers Smith argues in Stories of Peoplehood (Cambridge University Press, 2003), national identities are based on the vitality of shared narratives that place us in the stream of history. Stories make us who we are....
comments powered by Disqus
- So Cliven Bundy never said blacks might have been better off under slavery?
- Mussolini's birthplace in Italy to get a fascist museum
- Historical sex objects to feature in British classrooms
- All Russian World War I Documents Available Online
- Jihadists gone, masons are working to restore the mausoleums of Timbuktu
- Cultural historian who helped end censorship of "Lady Chatterley's Lover," dies
- Thomas Slaughter interviewed about his new book on the American Revolution
- Historian Michael Ignatieff writes a memoir explaining why he failed in politics
- Olivia Remie Constable, director of the Medieval Institute at Notre Dame since 2009, passes away
- Arizona Historical Society soon could be history