While I find history way more interesting than politics, politics becomes palatable when the political commentator brings historical perspective to the conversation. For that reason, I particularly enjoy the political commentary from Ross Douthat at The New York Times and Jonah Goldberg at The Dispatch. Both columnists add texture to their opinions by drawing from a wide array of historical sources. Their knowledge of history allows them to avoid common pitfalls of overreaction and oversimplification when analyzing complex issues.
I want to recommend a series of columns that Douthat has written over the last month on the topic of teaching history. You may need a subscription to read them, but Douthat is usually worth the $1 per week special they are running over there.
Start with this article wherein Douthat deftly summarizes what’s really going on in current political debates involving “Critical Race Theory” and how history should be taught in schools. He suggests that it’s possible to tell a fuller story about racism in American history, per progressives, and also maintain patriotism regarding the American founding, per conservatives.
Then, in the sequel, Douthat notes that the problem with the progressive desire to educate about structural racism in American culture has very little to do with structural racism’s existence, since many across the political spectrum acknowledge it. Instead, the conservative backlash is directed at two things: first, the policy suggestion to use education to confront those who are privileged for their sin, and second, the mistaken notion that all racial disparities are the result of racism. Douthat argues that you can acknowledge structural racism without following progressives down this problematic trail.
Next, Douthat wrote this gem, wherein he disagreed slightly with fellow conservative David French, and argued for the benefits of patriotic education for children. Without disavowing the bad, Douthat maintains that there is enough good in America’s past to engender patriotism. Ross doesn’t disagree with French on the principle, but on the order. Teach them about courageous heroes first, then come back, once patriotic sentiments has been felt, and tell them the bad.
Most recently, check out this rumination on patriotism as Douthat compares his views on the French and Indian War as a child with his more mature views on the same conflict as an adult.